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Globally, testicular cancer is the most common cancer in young men which is why November, or in this case “Movember,” is the perfect time to get educated on the signs and symptoms of testicular cancer, and when to talk to your doctor.
Testicular cancer occurs when cancer cells grow in one or both testicles. These cells begin to change and grow uncontrollably, forming a mass or tumor. This is almost always the first sign of testicular cancer.
While rare, about 9,000 men are diagnosed with testicular cancer in the US each year according to the American Cancer Society, and with early detection as simple as self-examinations, treatments are more effective and less aggressive than when the cancer is detected in later stages.
Here’s even better news: If found and treated early, testicular cancer is up to 99 percent treatable with cure rates greater than 95 percent. This is why knowledge (and regular exams) is power when it comes to your health!
Here’s how you can detect the warning sign of testicular cancer and catch it before it gets out of hand!
Even with youth on your side, this cancer can rear its ugly head in the early years of a man’s life. If you find a lump, the last thing you should do is brush it off because you’re young. (Yes, even if you work out and eat clean).
“Testicular cancer is most common in young men ages 20 to 40, with the average age at diagnosis being 33,” says Dallas-based Dr. James Kelley, D.O., urologist, at the Texas Center of Urology. “It is actually the most common malignancy in men in this age group, although it is important to remember that it can still occur in men at any age.” This is why it’s important to self-exam as early as teens years.
Mark your calendar for monthly manhood check-ups to stay on top of any suspicious changes. “The most common sign of testicular cancer is a painless lump felt in the testicle.” Explains Dr. Kelley. He continues, “Other possible signs and symptoms can include newer swelling in the testicle, a feeling of “weight” in the testicle, and rarely, a pain or dull aching in the testicle.”
Any changes in size, shape, or texture, need to be examined; you might not be able to feel the mass itself, but it could make your testicle very firm.
Monthly self-examinations are imperative for early detection. “I typically recommend performing a self-exam about once a month, ideally right after a shower when the scrotal skin is more relaxed and the testicles are easier to feel,” says Dr. Kelley.
It’s incredibly important to bring any new findings to your doctor or healthcare provider as soon as you notice anything new that feels different. “If your doctor is suspicious of a mass in the testicle, they will typically get an ultrasound of the testicles, check tumor marker blood tests, and refer you to a urologist, who is a surgeon that treats testicular cancer,” he adds.
Of course, not all irregularities in your testicles point to cancer, but it’s better to be safe than sorry by making an appointment with your doctor right away.
If there are any changes in your testicles, or you simply have a question regarding men’s health, don’t shy away from talking to your doctor.
“While it may seem like bringing things up to your healthcare provider (when it comes to your testicles) can sometimes feel embarrassing, just know that it can literally save your life and there is nothing you need to be anxious about,” Kelley assures. Your doctor is there to answer any questions you may have, and take all proper steps necessary if testicular changes have occurred.
Even a clean diet and a strict workout regimen may not ward off testicular cancer. In fact, several factors are known to increase the risk of developing testicular cancer. “Having a personal or family history of testicular cancer (such as in your brother or father), history of a testicle that didn’t fully drop at birth (an “undescended testicle”), or men with a history of abnormal cells in the testicle called germ cell neoplasia in situ (GCNIS),” Kelley says. But, even if you don’t fall under any of these categories, and you experience changes within your testicles, you should always get it checked out.
While performing your monthly exams, if an abnormality in one or both testicles is detected, after meeting with your doctor, they will refer you to a Urologist, who will then order the proper blood work and scans to determine if the lump is or isn’t cancer.
If it is testicular cancer, it is usually first treated with surgical removal of the tumor. “After the surgery, the doctor can review the tissue to learn the exact type of cancer, if it has spread anywhere further, and how aggressive it is,” Kelley says. Depending on the stage of cancer, your urologist will typically work with a team of other cancer specialists that help determine the best plan for you going forward.
“The good news in all of this is that after being treated for testicular cancer, the cure rates are excellent (greater than 95 percent!),” he says. Again, another reason to be proactive! “The chances of cancer coming back are very low, and the chances of dying from testicular cancer are even lower; Overall, testicular cancer is incredibly treatable, especially when caught early!” Kelley says.
If you’ve been diagnosed or have walked the path of testicular cancer, finding support during that time is so important. You are not alone – There are support groups and communities such as Nuts & Bolts who are there to encourage and give you the tools to tackle testicular cancer!