Testicular cancer is a relatively rare type of cancer, accounting for just 1% of all cancers that occur in men.
It is unusual compared to other cancers as it tends to affect younger men and although relatively uncommon overall, testicular cancer is the most common type of cancer to affect men between the ages of 15 and 49.
- The most common symptom is a painless lump or swelling in one of the testicles. It can be the size of a pea or it may be much larger.
- Differences between one testicle and the other
- A dull ache in the scrotum
- A feeling of heaviness in the scrotum
- Discomfort or pain in a testicle or the scrotum - testicular cancer is not usually painful, but about 20% of men have a sharp pain in the testicle or the scrotum as a first symptom.
If you are experiencing any of the above symptoms or are worried visit your GP.
Most testicular lumps are not cancer, but if it is cancer, the earlier it is diagnosed the easier it is to treat it and the more likely the treatment is to be successful.
Testicular cancer is one of the most treatable types of cancer, and the outlook is one of the best for cancers. So it is important that you go to your GP as soon as possible if you notice worrying symptoms.
The exact cause of testicular cancer is unknown, but a number of factors have been identified that increase a man's risk of developing it:
Undescended testicles are the most significant risk factor for testicular cancer.
About 3-5% of boys are born with their testicles inside their abdomen. They usually descend into the scrotum during the first year of life, but in some boys the testicles don't descend.
It's important that undescended testicles move down into the scrotum during early childhood because boys with undescended testicles have a higher risk of developing testicular cancer than boys whose testicles descend normally.
It's also much easier to observe the testicles when they're in the scrotum. Men with undescended testicles are about three times more likely to develop testicular cancer than men whose testicles descend at birth or shortly after.
Having a close relative with a history of testicular cancer or an undescended testicle increases your risk of also developing it. If your father had testicular cancer, you're around four times more likely to develop it than someone with no family history of the condition. If your brother had testicular cancer, you're about eight times more likely to develop it.
It is important to be aware of what feels normal for you. Get to know your body and regularly examine yourself so that you notice any changes.
Most testicular cancers are found by men themselves or their partner, very few are found by a physician. This is why it is so important to be familiar with what is normal and if you do notice any changes then see a doctor immediately.
It is best to do the testicular self-examination monthly, during or right after a warm shower or bath. The warmth relaxes the scrotum making the exam easier.
Don't be alarmed if one testicle seems slightly larger than the other, that's normal. It is also normal that one testicle will hang lower than the other.
3 Steps to the Monthly Testicular Self-Exam
- This is best done after a warm shower or bath when your scrotum is relaxed. If possible stand in front of a mirror and check for any swelling on the scrotal skin.
- Examine one testicle at a time. Hold the testicle in both hands, place your index and middle fingers under the testicle with your thumbs placed on top. Firmly but gently roll the testicle between your thumbs and fingers to feel if there are any irregularities on the surface or in the texture of the testicle. Feel for any hard lumps, smooth or rounded bumps, any changes in size, consistency or shape.
- Find the epididymis, a soft rope like texture at the back of the testicle; if you make yourself familiar to this structure you will not mistake it for a suspicious lump.