Signs of Testicular Cancer
- April is testicular cancer awareness month. The American Cancer Society estimates that about 1 of every 250 men and boys will be diagnosed with the disease during their lifetime.
- Some of the signs of testicular cancer include a mass or lump, a change in the way a testicle feels, breast growth or soreness, blood in ejaculate, early puberty in boys, lower back pain, shortness of breath, chest pain or a cough, belly pain, headaches or confusion, and swelling of one or both legs.
- Self examinations are incredibly important when it comes to screening for testicular cancer. Men aged 15 to 55 should perform a monthly self-examination to find any changes in the testes that might indicate cancer at an early stage.
April is Testicular Cancer Awareness Month, and a part of the reason for that designation is to encourage education surrounding the rare disease that also happens to be the most common form of cancer diagnosed in young men.Read More
Know the Signs of Testicular Cancer
That being said, it’s important to know how testicular cancer can present itself.
Symptoms of the disease can be subtle, and some people may even confuse the early symptoms as an injury. But when these signs are dismissed, the cancer can grow and become worse. Below are some signs of the disease to consider.
A Mass or Lump
The first symptom of testicular cancer is most often a lump on the testicle, or the testicle becoming swollen or larger, though it’s normal for one testicle to be slightly larger than the other, and for one to hang lower than the other.
“Most men will present with some sort of mass on their testicle,” Dr. Edwin Posadas, the medical director of the Urologic Oncology Program at Cedars-Sinai Cancer, previously told SurvivorNet. “It’s not uncommon to see men come in with masses on their scrotum and have inflammation of the scrotal wall; they develop pain as a result.” A sexual partner may feel the mass when they’re being intimate.
A Change in the Way a Testicle Feels
“Testicular cancer often presents with a painless mass in the testicle, Dr. Bradley McGregor, the Clinical Director of the Lank Center for Genitourinary Oncology at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, previously told SurvivorNet. “However, there may not always be a palpable mass and it may just be a change in the way a testicle feels or a heavy sensation.”
“Sometimes there may be a sensation of discomfort, or numbness in a testicle or the scrotum, with or without swelling.”
Breast Growth or Soreness
“Rarely, testicular cancer may produce hormones which can cause the growth of the breast tissue,” Dr. McGregor, said.
Blood in Ejaculate
Dr. Posadas says some men may notice blood in their ejaculate as a result of testicular cancer. “This symptom is less common, but always bad,” he explained.
Early Puberty in Boys
Testicular cancers that produce androgens (male sex hormones) may not cause any symptoms in men, but in boys they can cause signs of puberty at an abnormally early age, such as a deepening voice and the growth of facial and body hair, according to the American Cancer Society (ACS).
Lower Back Pain
“[Testicular cancer] spreads in a very predictable pattern,” Dr. McGregor said. If it does spread, the disease will most often travel to the abdomen and lungs. Back pain can come if it spreads to the abdomen.
Shortness of Breath, Chest pain or a Cough
Dr. McGregor says testicular cancer can cause shortness of breath or chest pain if the disease spreads to the lungs. The American Society of Clinical Oncology also says that shortness of breath caused by a blood clot can be a symptom of testicular cancer.
Belly pain cancer occur because of enlarged lymph nodes or because the testicular cancer has spread to the liver, according to the ACS.
Headaches or Confusion
These symptoms can occur if the cancer has spread to the brain.
Swelling of One or Both Legs
The American Society of Clinical Oncology also says that one or both legs could swell as a result of a blood clot caused by this cancer.
It’s crucial to note that having one or more of these symptoms certainly does not mean you have testicular cancer, but it’s always good to pay attention to any changes in your health. Dr. Posadas urges young men to seek medical care if they are having symptoms.
“Most men under the age of 40 tend not to think about seeing a doctor – they need to know to advocate for themselves,” he said.
Screening for Testicular Cancer
In order to look out for the main symptom of testicular cancer, it’s important to know how to perform a testicular self-examination – one way to screen for this disease.
“It takes less than a minute,” Dr. Posadas previously told SurvivorNet. “Rub testicles through your fingers – looking for any sore areas. Rub the top of the testicle, particularly the delicate epididymis. (The epididymis is a tube at the back of the testicles which stores and carries sperm.)
“Don’t squeeze real hard on there… [You should] look for a smoother feel; if you feel a hard nodule on there, you may require blood work from a urologist. [Testicular cancer] is highly curable, even when it’s advanced.”
In a previous interview with SurvivorNet, Dr. Bradley McGregor, clinical director of the Lank Center for Genitourinary Oncology at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, also emphasized the importance of self-examinations.
“It is recommended that men aged 15 to 55 perform a monthly self-examination to find any changes to help find the cancer at an early stage,” Dr. McGregor said. And if someone spots any of the early symptoms, “he should visit his doctor immediately.” It’s important to be aware of your body and get in touch with a doctor if you notice anything unusual.
“Testicular cancer commonly occurs from ages 20-45, but it can occur at any age,” Dr. McGregor continued. “The highest risk factor for testicular cancer is a history of cryptorchidism, an undescended testicle, where the testicle does not move down into the scrotum before birth. Men with a family history of testicular cancer are at increased risk as well. No lifestyle changes have been shown to definitively reduce risk of testicular cancer.”