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What you should know about testicular cancer

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Testicular cancer—cancer that develops in the male reproductive organs called testes—is relatively uncommon, affecting 1 in 250 males at some point in their lifetimes. That said, the incidence of testicular cancer has increased over the past few decades.

This April, SIU Medicine honors Testicular Cancer Awareness Month by sharing some important facts you and your loved ones should know about this health condition. 

Testicular cancer has symptoms—so don't wait to get checked out

Testicular cancer usually affects only one testicle. It can present with signs and symptoms including:

  • A lump, growth or area of hardness in a testicle 
  • Pain or discomfort in the testicle or scrotum
  • A dull achy sensation in the abdomen or groin
  • Back pain, especially without any other known cause
  • A sense of heaviness in the scrotum
  • A sudden and unexplained collection of fluid in the scrotum
  • Enlargement or tenderness of male breast tissue

Other health conditions can cause these symptoms, too, and you can't know if you have testicular cancer based on symptoms alone. Unfortunately, according to the Urology Care Foundation, most men wait an average of five months before talking to a doctor!

Our advice? Don't wait. In the unlikely event that your symptoms are due to cancer, seeing your doctor sooner will improve your chances of getting earlier treatment before the cancer spreads, which can improve your outcomes. 

Testicular cancer mostly affects younger men

The American Association for Cancer Research says that testicular cancer is the most common type of cancer in men between the ages of 20 and 35. Only about 6% of people who get testicular cancer are in their teens or younger, and only about 8% of people who get testicular cancer are older than 55. 

Two main types of testicular cancer exist: seminomas and nonseminomas. Compared to seminomas, nonseminomas tend to grow and spread more quickly. 

Testicular cancer has different causes and risk factors

Testicular cancer can develop in people who have no known risk factors. However, scientists have identified at least some possible factors that may increase a person's likelihood of getting this disease. These risk factors include:

  • Having a personal or family history of testicular cancer
  • Having an undescended testicle
  • Being HIV+
  • Being white (white men are about 4 to 5 times more likely to get testicular cancer than Black and Asian men)

The medical and scientific communities still don't know exactly what causes most cases of testicular cancer. Like most cancers, genes are thought to play an important role.

Currently, there is no conclusive evidence linking cellphones use to testicular cancer.

Testicular cancer usually responds well to treatment

Testicular cancer can spread quickly to other areas of the body. However, this type of cancer is considered highly treatable, especially when detected early.

Treatment for testicular cancer depends on several factors that are unique to each patient, but can include a combination of radiation, chemotherapy and surgery, including the surgical removal of the testicle (orchiectomy).

Regular self-exams can help

For men, performing self-examinations regularly may help you and your doctor detect potential problems earlier.

About once a month, after getting out of a warm shower, gently but firmly feel your testicles, looking for any areas that feel hard, lumpy, painful or otherwise different or unusual. If you notice anything that doesn't seem right, talk to your doctor. 

Would you like to talk to a provider about testicular cancer?

SIU Medicine is proud to raise awareness about men's health topics, including testicular cancer. If you or someone you know has concerns about testicular cancer, or if you would like to speak with an urologistoncologist or other provider, call SIU Medicine at 217-545-8000 now. 

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