Detecting Testicular Cancer Early

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Cancer that develops in a testicle is called testicular cancer. It is one of the most curable forms of cancer. While the exact cause of testicular cancer is unknown, there are a large number of factors that can increase the risk for the disease.

The risk factors for testicular cancer include:

  • Age. About half of all testicular cancers occur in men between the ages of 20 and 34
  • Undescended testicle(s). Even after surgical repair of an undescended testicle, there is still an increased risk
  • Family history
  • Personal history of cancer in the other testicle
  • Race and ethnicity. The rate of testicular cancer is higher in whites than in other populations
  • HIV infection

The symptoms of testicular cancer vary for each case, but some of the most reported symptoms include:

  • Swelling and hardening of a testicle
  • Change in the testicle’s shape or size
  • Dull ache in the abdomen or groin

Testicular cancer is diagnosed in one of three ways:

  • An ultrasound - An ultrasound will be done if you have a lump on or near your testicle. This test uses sound waves to see if the lump is filled with fluid or is a solid mass. Cancerous lumps are solid.
  • Blood tests - Certain blood tests can find changes that occur when you have a tumor in your testicles. These are called tumor markers. Tumor-related markers for testicular cancer are the proteins alpha-fetoprotein (AFP) and human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG). Another marker is the enzyme lactate dehydrogenase (LDH). Your doctors may be able to tell what kind of testicular cancer you have based on these protein levels. If you have testicular cancer, your doctor may repeat these blood tests during and after treatment to see how well it is working. 
  • A biopsy - If a lump is found and the doctor thinks it's cancerous, a surgeon might try to remove all of it, along with your testicle and your spermatic cord, for a test called a biopsy. The surgeon does a biopsy through an incision in your groin area. The surgeon should not do a biopsy of your testicles through the scrotum. If you have cancer, this could spread the cancer onto your scrotum or your other testicle. The surgeon sends the removed testicle and spermatic cord to a pathologist for testing. A pathologist is a doctor who looks at cells under the microscope to tell whether they are cancerous.

While there are currently no sure ways to prevent testicular cancer due to too few known causes for the disease, there are ways to find the cancer early. Performing a testicular self-exam can improve your chances of finding testicular cancers in the early stages, leading to a higher success rate of removal.

People with testicular cancer now have more treatment choices than ever before.  To learn more about the treatment options available, or to consult a physician about any concerns you may have, visit Baptist-Health.com. or call our Baptist Health HealthLine at 1-888-227-8478 for questions or to make an appointment.