Only 1.2% accounts for testicular cancer in men, however, it is considered a potentially disease as it’s the cause of about 11%-13% cancer deaths of men in the ages of 15 to 35. There are two peaks of testicular cancer according to men’s age. The first peak, with about 90% of cases, happens before reaching the age of 45. The second peak is a smaller case which occurs at men 50 years above.
However, this cancer is highly curable with about 90-95% success rate. Just like any other disease, early detection increases the success rate of being cured. It is important for men to be aware of the possible signs of testicular cancer to have proper diagnosis at an early stage.
What Are the Symptoms of Testicular Cancer?
Swelling or lump in the testicle
The first and most common sign is a lump in one of their testicle or the testicle has become larger or swollen. It’s quiet normal though for one testicle to be a little bit bigger than the other or one that hangs lower than the other.
In most cases, this tumor does not cause any pain but some patients have experienced pain brought about by this lump. Some patients have also complained a feeling of pain or heaviness in their scrotum or lower abdomen.
Soreness or growth of breast
Some patients diagnosed with testicular cancer have experienced breast soreness or growth. This happens because a hormone called human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG) is secreted by a certain type of germ cell tumors. This hormone stimulates the development of breast. Some cell tumors can also produce a female sex hormone called estrogen which causes the increase of growth in the breast, and even loss of sexual appetite.
Early puberty in boys
Some Leydig cell tumours can produce male sex hormones called androgens. This tumour that produces androgen may not cause symptoms in men, however, it has an effect to boys that are diagnosed with testicular cancer. It causes early puberty and shows puberty signs such as facial and body hair growth and deepening of voice.
Blood clot that causes shortness of breath or swelling of 1 or 2 legs
Developing a blood clot, especially to some young or middle-aged men, is one of the early symptoms of testicular cancer. Shortness of breath is caused by a blood clot in the artery in the lungs, which is called pulmonary embolism. Deep venous thrombosis or DVT, on the other hand, is a blood clot that forms in a large vein and can cause swelling of the legs.
However, sometimes, many signs that are experienced by patients are similar to those that are caused by conditions not related to cancer. For example, a change in the size of testicle can be developed because of these scenarios:
A cyst called spermatocele that is developed in the epididymis, a small organ attached to the testicle which is responsible for carrying the sperm away from the testicle.
Blood vessels from the testicles are enlarged
Hydrocele is developed where fluid is built up in the membrane around the testicle
Abdominal muscle has developed an opening
And a patient may experience pain when there is an infection. There are 2 most common infections in patients: epididymitis which is an infection of the epididymis and orchitis or an infection of the testicle.
Some men don't experience symptoms right away, even if it has spread on other parts of their body, while other men that are in the advanced stage of testicular cancer would have experienced these symptoms:
Lower back pain – when cancer cells have already spread to the lymph nodes located in the back of the stomach.
Chest pain, shortness of breath or cough – these symptoms show when cancer cells have already reached the lungs.
Stomach pain – Cancer has already spread to the liver or there is enlarged lymph node.
A feeling of confusion or headache – when cancer has already reached the brain.
How to Diagnose Testicular Cancer
It is recommended that all men should conduct a regular testicular self-exam. This is to detect any signs of lumps or swelling and get medical attention as soon as possible. The most ideal time to conduct this exam is when your scrotum’s skin is relaxed, preferably during or after taking a bath.
How do you do a testicular self-exam then?
Move your penis out of the way and check each testicle.
Feel your testicle gently with your thumb and fingers and check for any smooth rounded bumps or hard lumps. Also feel for any changes in shape, size or consistency of your testicles.
If you’ve found something unusual and have experienced some symptoms of testicular cancer, visit your doctor immediately. He would need to conduct some tests to confirm the diagnoses. Below are the common tests conducted to properly diagnose testicular cancer.
Physical exam and health history. Your doctor will conduct a general physical examination to check for any signs of diseases. Your testicles will also be checked for swelling, lumps or any pain. He will also ask questions to check your health history such as prior diseases and illness.
Ultrasound exam. An ultrasound procedure where high-energy sound waves are used to confirm lumps, cyst or any abnormalities in the testicle can be performed.
Serum tumor marker test. A procedure where blood sample is used to check the amount of tumor markers that are present. These are substances that are linked to a certain type of cancer. The increased level of these tumor markers can confirm the presence of cancer. Alpha-fetoprotein (AFP) and Beta-human chorionic gonadotropin (β-hCG) are the tumor markers used to detect testicular cancer.
Inguinal orchiectomy. It is a procedure where a sample from the testicle is examined under a microscope to check for the presence of cancer cells.
Knowing the symptoms of testicular cancer for early detection can guarantee a higher percentage of recovery. Now that you are aware of the common manifestation of this condition, make a conscious commitment to conduct a regular testicular exam, whether done by a professional or yourself, to be on top of this disease.