Though it’s not common knowledge, testicular cancer is the most common cancer among men between the ages of 15 and 45 years old. Though it’s unknown how to prevent the disease, it can be detected, treated and cured.
What killed 90 percent of its victims just 30 years ago is now curable by the same percentage, no matter how far the disease has progressed.
The Facts About Testicular Cancer
Testicular cancer occurs commonly among men who have had an undescended testicle or who have a personal or family history of testicular cancer, but it can strike any man.
The first line of defense is you. You should be doing your own monthly self-exams, starting at puberty and continuing until about age 50 since testicular cancer is rare among the elderly. Also, men between the ages of 15 and 45 should make sure their doctor performs a testicular exam at each checkup.
The best time to do a self-exam is while taking a shower. Check the front and sides of each testicle for lumps or areas of tenderness, and notify your doctor immediately should you find one. If you are uncomfortable or shy about performing the test yourself, you can have a doctor examine you or have your wife or significant other perform the exam. One out of three cases of testicular cancer is discovered by the patient’s partner, because ironically men tend to get a little shy when it comes to testing themselves.
It’s helpful to know that the majority of testicular lumps are benign and can be caused by things like scrotal varicose veins, fluid buildup in the scrotum, a hernia, or a sperm-filled cyst. Varicose veins feel like a small bag of worms beneath the skin, and a sperm-filled cyst is usually about the size of a pea and is slightly separated from the actual testicle.
When your doctor examines you, he will use his hands to see if the lump can be separated from the testicle itself. This is a good sign, because it means that the lump is benign. However, if the lump is attached to the testicle, it is very likely that it is cancerous. At that time the doctor will probably perform blood tests to test for the presence of proteins that are associated with testicular cancer. An ultrasound can detect if the lump is solid (likely cancerous) or fluid-filled (likely benign).
Treating testicular cancer usually requires surgical removal of the testicle, as well as any attached structures, including the epididymis and blood vessels. In some cases, chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy is necessary, especially if the cancer has spread beyond the scrotal region.