When talking about a testicular cancer, we have to admit that it is a very sensitive topic. It is estimated that about 8,720 men in the United States will be diagnosed with testicular cancer this year, and the average age of diagnosis is 33.
It is a fact that this may be an embarrassing topic for most people, but it is more common than you think. But, you have to be aware of its sneaky symptoms. The first symptom of testicular cancer is a change in the size or shape of one or both testicles. In some cases it does not cause pain.
According to many doctors, men between 15 and 40 years should regularly do a regular self-examination. This self-examination will help in the early detection and is especially important for those who have a history of un-descended testicles or familial history of testicular cancer.
Testicular Cancer Self Exam: Hold your penis out of the way and check one testicle at a time. Keep the testicle between your thumbs and fingers of both hands and roll it gently between your fingers, in order to find out if there are any hard lumps or smooth rounded bumps or any change in the size, shape, or consistency of the testicles.
Common symptoms of testicular Cancer:
- A swelling and/or lump in one or both of the testes. You may or may not have pain in the testes or scrotum.
- A heavy feeling in the scrotum.
- A severe pain or feeling of pressure in the lower belly or groin.
- Breast growth or soreness: In some cases germ cell tumors can make breasts grow or become sore. Some cell tumors can make estrogen. This can be the reason for breast growth or loss of sexual desire.
- Early puberty in boys: Some cell tumors can make androgens (male sex hormones). Androgen-producing tumors may not lead to any specific symptoms in men, but in boys they can lead to puberty symptoms at an abnormally early age, such as a deepening voice and growth of facial and body hair.
- Remember that it is normal for one testicle to be slightly larger when compared to the other, and for one to hang lower than the other.
Symptoms of Advanced Testicular Cancer:
This implies to the fact that the cancer has spread beyond the testicles, and regional lymph nodes, to other organs. The symptoms can depend on the region it spreads too. Here are some of the symptoms of late-stage testicular cancer:
- Severe pain in the lower back and belly: This is from the cancer spreading to the lymph nodes in the back of the belly.
- Lack of energy, sweating without reason, fever, or a general feeling of illness.
- Shortness of breath, coughing, or chest pain: In many cases, coughing up blood may develop from cancer spreading in the lungs.
- Headache or confusion: From cancer spreading to the brain.
- Belly Pain: It occurs either from enlarged lymph nodes, or because the cancer had spread to the liver.
Note: Many non-cancerous conditions, such as testicle injury or inflammation, can cause symptoms similar to those of testicular cancer. Inflammation of the testicle (orchitis) and inflammation of the epididymis (epididymitis) can lead to swelling and pain of the testicle. Viral or bacterial infections can be the reasons for this.
Testicular Exams and Tests:
- Testicular Ultrasound: Before the testicle is removed, this test is used to rule out other possible causes of an enlarged, or a painful testicle.
- Blood Tests: These are often done to measure the levels of the tumor markers in your blood:
- Alpha Fetoprotein (AFP)
- Beta Human Chorionic gonadotrophin (beta-hCG)
- Lactate Dehydrogenase (LDH)
- Imaging tests: Such as Chest-X-ray, and CT scan of the chest, abdomen, and pelvis.
The bright side of all this is that testicular cancer is one of the most curable forms of cancer, especially during its early stages. You have to perform self-exam once a month. If you feel like there is something unusual, you should consult with a doctor immediately.
Remember that it could be nothing, but it is always better to be safe than sorry.