Testicular cancer

Cancer of one or both testicles usually starts as a painless lump. If you see your doctor as soon as you notice a lump, often the cancer remains located within the testis. However if enough time passes the cancer often spreads to other parts of the body.

The cure rate of cancer is quite good, at 95%.

How common is testicular cancer?

Although not a very common cancer, about 700 Australian men each year are diagnosed.

It is still the second most common form of cancer in men aged 18-39 years.

What are the risk factors for testicular cancer?

The most associated risk factor is a history of undescended testes. All boys in adolescence should be informed about their history if they’ve had a history of undescended testes so they can regularly check their testes.

Undescended testes (cryptorchidism) A condition where one or both testes have not descended into the scrotum but remain in the abdomen or the canal leading to the scrotum.

 

3-5 boys per 100 have this condition. It is often picked at birth, the 6 week check or the 4 month check.

Men with a history of undescended testes have a risk 10x higher than the normal population. If the undescended testes are fixed before the age of 1, the risk may be lower. If there is a single undescended testis – the risk is higher only in that testis.

Previous testicular cancer 1 in 25 risk of developing cancer in the other testis
Previous male infertility Men diagnosed with fertility issues, particularly those with undescended testes.
Family history Having a father, brother or uncle with testicular cancer is a minor risk factor
Down syndrome Men with Down syndrome may be at higher genetic risk of testicular cancer, gastrointestinal cancer and leukaemia.

Can I prevent testicular cancer?

Other than undescended testes being a risk factor, the causes are unknown.

What we can say is that injury, sporting issues, life style and sexual activity are NOT linked with an increased risk of testicular cancer.

How do I check for testicular cancer?

Looking for the symptoms and knowing how to examine yourself is important. A hard lump in either testis is the usual symptom.

It is often painless, but 1 in 10 men may feel pain with it.

Chronic backache that’s unexplained, coughing, shortness of breath or enlarged nipples should prompt you to see a doctor.

Self examination

  • Best done during or after a warm shower as this relaxes the scrotum
  • Support your scrotum using the palm of your hand
  • Roll one testis between your thumb and fingers to feel for any lumps or swellings on the surface – the testis should feel firm and the surface should feel smooth
  • Using the thumb and fingers feel the epididymis at the back of the testis – this is a coiled tube that carries the sperm from the testis to the vas deferens
  • If you notice any new changes – tell your doctor straight away

It is normal for one testis to be slightly bigger than the other, and for the left testis to hang lower than the right.

If you have any concerns about your testes, scrotum or any other swellings in the groin area – come see us at GS Health for an examination and review.

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