Cancer of the testicles (testicular cancer) is an uncommon condition that accounts for only about 1% of all cancers in men. Each year, approximately 8,000 new cases of testicular cancer will occur in the U.S., leading to approximately 360 deaths.
What causes testicular cancer?
Doctors do not know the exact cause of testicular cancer, but a number of risk factors for development of this disease have been identified. Young men between the ages of 15 and 39 are most often affected. White men are affected more than men of other races, although the disease can occur in men of any age and race, including children. Men who have an undescended testicle (termed cryptorchidism), even if surgery has been performed to remedy the condition, have an increased risk for the development of testicular cancer. Other risk factors include the genetic condition known as Klinefelter's syndrome, abnormal development of the testicles, and having relatives with testicular cancer.
Is there a cure for testicular cancer?
Testicular cancer is highly curable when detected early, and 95% of patients with testicular cancer are alive after a five-year period. However, in about half of men with testicular cancer is not discovered before it has spread beyond the testicles to other locations in the body (as in the case of seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong).
How to check for testicular cancer
Most testicular cancers are found by men themselves. There is no routine standard for screening for testicular cancer, since screening programs have not shown a decrease in mortality (death rate) from the condition. However, some men choose to perform an examination of their testicles once a month (referred to as TSE or testicular self-examination) to facilitate detection of testicular cancer in its early, treatable stage. The TSE involves gentle examination of the testicles, one at a time, holding each testicle between the thumb (on top) and middle and index fingers below. Look for any small, hard lumps within the testicles or changes in the feel of the testicles.
What are other symptoms of testicular cancer?
Other symptoms and signs of testicular cancer include:
- pain, a sense of heavines, or swelling in the testicles,
- lumps or nodules in the testicles, whether painful or not,
- enlargement of the testicles or change in the way a testicle feels,
- pain in the lower abdomen, back, or groin areas, and
- swelling of the scrotum or collection of fluid within the scrotum.
Many men with testicular cancer will not feel ill and may report no symptoms. It's also important to remember that other, benign conditions can cause the symptoms listed above. However, since early stage testicular cancer is curable, men should see a doctor if they have any of the warning signs or symptoms of testicular cancer. He or she can perform tests that determine whether the symptoms are due to cancer or another condition.
Medically reviewed by Jay B. Zatzkin, MD; American Board of Internal Medicine with subspecialty in Medical Oncology
MedscapeReference.com. Testicular Cancer.