June 10th – 16th represents Men’s Health Week so our focus this month is on testicular cancer. It is relatively rare accounting for just 1% of all cancers that occur in men and tends to mostly affect men between the ages of 15 and 49 years of age.
Testicular cancer occurs in the testicles (testes), which are located in the scrotum, a loose bag of skin underneath the penis. The testicles produce male sex hormones and sperm for reproduction.
There are different types of testicular cancer which are classified by the type of cell that the cancer begins in.
The most common type of testicular cancer is ‘germ cell testicular cancer’ which accounts for 95% of all cases. Germ cells are a type of cell that the body uses to create sperm.
For the purpose of this article we will focus on germ cell testicular cancer.
Signs and symptoms of testicular cancer include:
- 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
- Cancer usually affects only one testicle
Testicular cancer can spread to other parts of the body, most commonly lymph nodes in your abdomen or lungs, these are nodes that make up your immune system.
Symptoms may include:
- Persistent cough
- Coughing up blood
- Shortness of breath
- Lump or swelling in the neck
CAUSES AND RISK FACTORS OF TESTICULAR CANCER
It is not yet clear what causes testicular cancer but factors that may increase your risk of testicular cancer include:
An undescended testicle (cryptorchidism)
The testes form in the abdominal area during development and usually descend into the scrotum before birth. Men who have a testicle that never descended are at greater risk of testicular cancer than are men whose testicles descended normally.
Abnormal testicle development
Conditions that cause testicles to develop abnormally may increase your risk of testicular cancer.
If family members have had testicular cancer, you may have an increased risk.
Testicular cancer affects teens and younger men, particularly those between ages 15 and 49. However, it can occur at any age.
Testicular cancer is more common in white men than in black men.
Your GP will ask you about your symptoms and look at your medical history and perform a physical examination including examination of the testicles.
Further investigations may include bloods tests and an ultrasound scan with further referral to see a specialist urgently.
Surgery (removal of the affected testicle-orchidectomy) and in some cases chemotherapy or less commonly radiotherapy are the mainstay of treatments. Your recommended treatment will be dependent on the type and stage of the disease.
Testicular cancer is one of the most treatable types of cancer with one of the best outlooks, so we would urge you if you have any of the above symptoms or concerns then please make an appointment to see your GP.