Testicular cancer is rare in the UK. About 2,400 men are diagnosed each year which is about 1% of all male cancers. The good news is, the survival rate is extremely high and most men are completely cured.Younger men are more likely to get testicular cancer, with 50% of those affected under 35 years of age. Men over 55 are the least likely to get it.Early detection and treatment increases the chances of a full cure, so regular testicle checking is important.
What causes testicular cancer?
The cause for most testicular cancers is not known, but there are certain risk factors which seem to make it more likely.
- Undescended testicles is the most common risk factor. This means any baby boys whose testicles aren’t in the scrotal sac before the age of 1
- Abnormal cells in the testicle (carcinoma in situ). This means abnormal cells in the testicle. It isn’t cancer and there’s no lump and usually no other symptoms, but if left untreated CIS develops into cancer in about half (50%) the men who have it
- Fertility problems, this includes low semen concentration, sperm that does not move around much or a high proportion of abnormal sperm
- Previous testicular cancer, if you’ve had a testicle affected already, the risk of developing a cancer in the other testicle is increased by 12 to 18 times
- Family history, men whose father had testicular cancer are around 4 times more likely to develop it and men with a brother who had testicular cancer are around 8 times more likely
- Inguinal hernia, this is a lump in the groin area caused by a part of the intestine or bowel slipping through a weakness in the abdominal wall
- Ethnic background, white men have a higher risk of testicular cancer than men from other ethnic groups
- Taller than average men have an increased risk
How do I know I have testicular cancer?
The most common symptom is a lump or swelling in part of a testicle – the two small oval shaped, sperm producing organs, hanging below the penis in a pouch of skin called the scrotum. The lump can be as small as a pea but can also be much larger. Some men can’t feel a lump as such, but just a general difference between one testicle and the other. MOST testicular lumps are not cancer.
Some men also describe their scrotum as feeling heavier than normal or discomfort or pain in either the testicle or scrotum, but this will only happen in about 20% of men.
Many testicular cancers make hormones that can be detected in blood tests and occasionally, men can develop tender or swollen breasts because of these hormones.
How do I check my testicles?
It’s a good idea to look at and feel your testicles every now and then, but there’s no need to worry about doing it regularly in a set way at a set time. The best time to look at and feel is after a warm bath or shower when the scrotal skin is relaxed. Check for: size and weight comparing each side and any lumps or swellings. Remember – regular checking is key so familiarise yourself with the quirks of your own testicles so you can notice a difference.
When to see the doctor?
If you have any one of the following:
- an unusual lump or swelling in part of one testicle
- a sharp pain in the testicle or scrotum
- a heavy scrotum
- an increase in the firmness or feel
- an unusual difference between one testicle and the other
Don’t panic – your symptoms are unlikely to be cancer but it’s important to get them checked out anyway.
There are different stages of cancer which refer to how big the cancer is and whether it’s spread. Stage 1 is the earliest stage and generally, the earlier it’s discovered and treated the better. Everyone is different though, and there are many other factors to take into account, but below is a rough guide.
Almost all men survive their cancer for five years or more after diagnosis.
Stage 1 means the cancer is only in the testes.
95% of men survive their cancer for 5 years or more after diagnosis.
Stage 2 means the cancer has spread to nearby lymph nodes.
80% of men survive their cancer for 5 years or more after diagnosis.
Stage 3 means the cancer has spread to lymph nodes further away from the testicles: for example, in the armpit or neck.
For more information visit: https://www.cancerresearchuk.org/about-cancer/testicular-cancer
Have you or someone you know had testicular cancer? How often do you check your body for abnormalities? Join or start the conversation below.