About testicular cancer
Most types of testicular cancer develop in the sperm-producing cells known as germ cells, and are referred to as germ cell tumors. Germ cell tumors in men can start in several parts of the body:
- The testicles, which is the most common location
- The back of the abdomen near the spine, called the retroperitoneum
- The central portion of the chest between the lungs, called the mediastinum
- The lower spine
- Very rarely, a small gland in the brain called the pineal gland
Testicular cancer is almost always curable if found early, and it is usually curable even when at a later stage. Another name for testicular cancer is testis cancer.
Testicular Cancer: Risk Factors
A risk factor is anything that increases a person’s chance of developing cancer. Although risk factors often influence the development of cancer, most do not directly cause cancer. Some people with several risk factors never develop cancer, while others with no known risk factors do. However, knowing your risk factors and talking about them with your doctor may help you make more informed lifestyle and health care choices.
The following factors can raise a man’s risk of developing testicular cancer. However, it is important to note that the cause of testicular cancer is not known.
- Age. More than half of testicular cancer diagnoses occur in men between the ages of 20 and 45. However, men of any age can develop this disease, including men in their teens and in their 60s, so it is important that any man with symptoms of testicular cancer visit the doctor.
- Cryptorchidism. Cryptorchidism is an undescended testicle, meaning that 1 or both testicles do not move down into the scrotum before birth as they should. Men with this condition have an increased risk of developing testicular cancer. This risk may be lowered if surgery is used to correct the condition before the boy reaches puberty. Some doctors recommend surgery for cryptorchidism when a boy is between 6 and 15 months to reduce the risk of infertility. Infertility is the inability to produce children. Because cryptorchidism is often corrected at a young age, many men may not know if they had the condition.
- Family history. A man who has a close relative, particularly a brother, who has had testicular cancer has an increased risk of developing testicular cancer.
- Personal history. Men who have had cancer in 1 testicle have an increased risk of developing cancer in the other testicle. It is estimated that out of every 100 men with testicular cancer, 2 will develop cancer in the other testicle.
- Race. Although men of any race can develop testicular cancer, white men are more likely than men of other races to be diagnosed with testicular cancer. Testicular cancer is rare in black men. However, black men with testicular cancer are more likely to die of the cancer than white men, particularly if the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes or other parts of the body when it is diagnosed.
- Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). Men with HIV or acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) caused by the HIV virus have a slightly higher risk of developing seminoma.
Testicular Cancer: Symptoms and Signs
Men with testicular cancer may experience a variety of symptoms or signs. Sometimes, men with testicular cancer do not have any of these changes. Or, the cause of a symptom may be another medical condition that is not cancer. So, having these symptoms does not mean that a man definitely has cancer.
Usually, an enlarged testicle or a small lung or area of hardness are the first signs of testicular cancer. Any lump, enlargement, hardness, pain, or tenderness should be evaluated by a doctor as soon as possible. Other symptoms of testicular cancer usually do not appear until after the cancer has spread to other parts of the body.
Symptoms of testicular cancer may include:
- Painless lump or swelling on either testicle. If found early, a testicular tumor may be about the size of a pea or a marble, but it can grow much larger.
- Pain or discomfort, with or without swelling, in a testicle or the scrotum.
- Change in the way a testicle feels or a feeling of heaviness in the scrotum. For example, 1 testicle may become more firm than the other testicle. Or, testicular cancer may cause the testicle to grow bigger or to become smaller.
- Dull ache in the lower abdomen or groin
- Sudden buildup of fluid in the scrotum
- Breast tenderness or growth. Although rare, some testicular tumors produce hormones that cause breast tenderness or growth of breast tissue, a condition called gynecomastia
- Lower back pain, shortness of breath, chest pain, and bloody sputum or phlegm can be symptoms of later-stage testicular cancer.
- Swelling of 1 or both legs or shortness of breath from a blood clot can be symptoms of testicular cancer. A blood clot in a large vein is called deep venous thrombosis or DVT. A blood clot in an artery in the lung is called a pulmonary embolism and causes shortness of breath. For some young or middle-aged men, developing a blood clot may be the first sign of testicular cancer.
Treatment for testicular cancer varies, as soon as you notice any of the above symptoms, see your doctor.