Testicular cancer occurs when cancer forms in the testicles located inside of the scrotum underneath the penis. Testicular cancer affects nearly 8,000 men a year and most commonly occurs in younger males ages 15 to 35. Monthly self-exams and awareness of the symptoms of testicular cancer can help men catch this disease at an early and curable stage.
In almost all cases, testicular cancer occurs in only one testicle. In those instances, men can maintain full sexual and reproductive function with the other testicle.
More than 95 percent of men with testicular survive.
Symptoms of Testicular Cancer
Knowing the symptoms of testicular cancer is very important for early detection. The symptoms include:
- A small, painless lump in a testicle
- A feeling of heaviness in the scrotum
- A dull ache in the lower abdomen or groin
- A change in the way a testicle feels
- A sudden collection of blood or fluid in the scrotum
Performing a Testicular Self-Exam
An important part of early detection is a monthly testicular self-exam. The best time to perform a testicular self-exam is after a warm bath or shower, as heat relaxes the scrotum.
The National Cancer Institute recommends following these steps every month:
- Stand in front of a mirror. Look for any changes or swelling on the skin of the scrotum.
- Examine each testicle with both hands. Place your index and middle fingers under the testicle with the thumbs placed on top. Roll the testicle gently between the thumbs and fingers. Don't be surprised if one testicle seems slightly larger than the other. This is normal.
- Find the epididymis, the soft, tube-like structure behind the testicle that collects and carries sperm. If you are familiar with this structure, you won't mistake it for a suspicious lump. Cancerous lumps usually are found on the sides of the testicle, but can also appear on the front.
Treatment for Testicular Cancer
If you find a lump, schedule an appointment with your physician right away. Your lump may not be cancerous, but if it is, it may spread if not treated quickly. Remember that testicular cancer is highly curable, especially when it's detected and treated early.
Treatments for testicular cancer may include:
- Surgery: A surgeon will remove the tumor and possibly the testicle and surrounding lymph nodes.
- Radiation therapy: Penn Radiation Oncology uses the latest equipment and technology available to treat testicular cancer. Penn radiation oncologists are recognized leaders in techniques that target radiation precisely to the treatment area while sparing normal tissue.
- Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy uses drugs to attack cancer cells, slowing or stopping their ability to grow and multiply.
High-dose chemotherapy and stem cell transplantation: Stem cells are removed from the blood and bone marrow of the patient and are frozen and stored. After the chemotherapy treatment, the stem cells are re-infused back into the patient to promote the production of healthy blood cells.