According to the American Cancer Society, about 1 in 263 males in the United States will develop testicular cancer at some point in their lives. Although this form of cancer is rare, the incidences of testicular cancer are on the rise in many developed countries including the US. However, with recent advances in medicine, patients with testicular cancer can have an excellent prognosis. The risk of succumbing to testicular cancer is quite low, and early detection is the key for a better prognosis. Spreading awareness about testicular cancer and regular self-examinations can help in identifying growths early, which is when treatment of testicular cancer is most effective.
April is recognized as Testicular Cancer Awareness Month all across the world to spread awareness about this form of cancer. It is time to engage in conversation and understand the potential risks and options. Let’s start with some basic information about testicular cancer.
What is testicular cancer?
In the simplest terms, testicular cancer is cancer originating in the male reproductive organs — the testes. There is a pair of testes in every healthy male, and their function is to produce male sex hormone (testosterone) and sperm. Testicular cancer can affect one or both of the testicles.
Anatomically, the testes contain different types of cells, and each of them can form a type of testicular cancer. The prognosis and treatment options rely on the type of cells involved in testicular cancer.
What are the risk factors for testicular cancer?
Some risk factors can contribute toward the development of testicular cancer. However, the existence of a risk factor does not mean you will get testicular cancer. Similarly, the absence of a risk factor does not mean you will not get testicular cancer. If you have any of the following risk factors, pay close attention to the health of your testicles and consult with your doctor to discuss your risks.
- An undescended testicle
- Family history of testicular cancer
- HIV infection
- Carcinoma in situ of the testicle
- Having had testicular cancer before
- Being of a certain race/ethnicity
- Being of a certain race/ethnicity
What are the signs and symptoms?
If you have any of these signs or symptoms, schedule an appointment with your doctor, especially if they last longer than two weeks. It may turn out that the cause of the symptoms is something other than testicular cancer, but if a tumor is the cause, early detection is important for successful treatment.
- A lump or enlargement in either testicle
- A feeling of heaviness in the scrotum
- A dull ache in the abdomen or groin
- A sudden collection of fluid in the scrotum
- Pain or discomfort in a testicle or the scrotum
- Enlargement or tenderness of the breasts
- Back pain
How is testicular cancer treated?
Testicular cancer can usually be treated successfully, and in recent years a lot of progress has been made with treatment options. In some cases, more than one type of treatment may be used. Depending on the type and stage of the cancer, the following treatment options may be available for patients who have testicular cancer.
- Radiation therapy
- High-dose chemotherapy and stem cell transplant
Testicular cancer is a treatable form of cancer. If the cancer is detected in its early stages, most men will have a successful outcome. It is important to understand the risk factors and talk to your doctor about early detection and self-examination. You can talk to our providers here at Eastside Family Medicine Clinic during Testicular Cancer Awareness Month, or any other time to learn more about the condition. Remember, as with many types of cancer, awareness is the key to fighting testicular cancer.