However, the most commonly reported symptom of testicular cancer is ‘a lump in the testis.’
The lump or mass may be painless or rarely be painful. A person may feel a rubbery or hard lump in one testicle, or he may feel his one testicle is bigger than another. The lump may make one side of the testis feel heavier.
The other symptoms of testicular cancer are:
- Hydrocoele: It is a sudden ballooning of the scrotum due to the buildup of fluid. The scrotum may become huge, but there may be no pain. Tests may reveal the tumor as the reason for hydrocele. Tumor cells can block the drainage of the testis, causing swelling.
- Breast tenderness or soreness: In men, it may be a sign of cancer. This is specifically seen in hormone-secreting tumors of the testis.
- Lower back or stomach pain when the cancer cells have spread to the spine and abdominal organs.
- Testicular cancer may often present as a clot in the lung. The person may have a cough, breathlessness, and bloody spit.
- Early puberty: Some tumors may secrete androgens (male sex hormones) causing a deepening of the voice, growth of body hair, and an early onset puberty.
What are the risk factors for developing the cancer of testis?
The various factors that may increase the risk of the cancer of the testis are:
- Undescended testis: This is the major risk factor for the development of testicular cancer. Normally, the testis is inside the child’s belly during the intrauterine life. They descend to the scrotum at birth or just after birth. In some persons, one or both testes fail to descend from the belly to the scrotum even after birth. Sometimes, the testis may start descending but get stuck in the groin. Such undescended testis may require a surgical procedure called orchiopexy to pull it down and fix it in the scrotum. It is best done before the child’s first birthday. Early orchiopexy helps to reduce the risk of cancer in a person, but if it can completely prevent the development of cancer is yet being studied.
- HIV/AIDS infection: The risk of testicular cancer is higher in individuals infected with HIV.
- History of testicular cancer in past: Having a tumor of one testis in the past increases the risk of cancer of the other testis in the future.
- Ethnicity: Testicular cancer is higher in the white population compared to the black or Asian population. It is also slightly higher in taller men.
- Family history of testicular cancer: If your father or brother has had a history of testis cancer, you may be at an increased risk.
- Genetic factors: Individuals with Klinefelter syndrome (a genetic condition in which a male is born with an extra copy of the X chromosome) are at risk of cancer of the testis.
- Age: Men who are 20-39 years of age are prone to testicular cancer.
- Toxins: A toxin called Ochratoxin A is produced by a fungus that infects plants that bear nuts, spices, or coffee. Consumption of the mold-infested food may cause cancer of the testis in some men. The role of intrauterine exposure to this toxin via the mother’s diet or exposure to this toxin via breast milk in causing testicular cancer is also being studied.
Many men may develop cancer in absence of risk factors. Conversely, some men with risk factors may not develop cancer. It must be remembered that the cancer of testis is an uncommon and a slow-growing tumor. It has more than 90% survival rate with tumors that have spread locally and more than 73% survival rates with tumors that have spread throughout the body. Early diagnosis and timely treatment are keys to survival.
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