Men's Health

Is Lower Back Pain a Sign of Testicular Cancer?

Is Lower Back Pain an Early Warning Sign of Testicular Cancer?

Is Lower Back Pain a Sign of Testicular Cancer?

Key Takeaways

  • Any infection, inflammation, or physical trauma affecting the spine or abdominal organs can trigger lower back pain, and such pain need not be caused by testicular cancer.
  • It is important to ascertain the true nature of lower back pain, because it may in rare cases indicate progression of testicular cancer to the lymph nodes as a prelude to the invasion of the lungs and other organs. 

Testicular cancer affects the male sex organs called the testes, two oval shaped gonads located just beneath the penis, which are primarily responsible for producing male sex cells called sperm, as well as the male sex hormone called testosterone. Cancer mainly affects the germ cells, which in normal course go on to mature into sperm cells and, to a lesser extent, the Leydig cells that secrete the male sex hormone.

Of the multiple symptoms that indicate testicular cancer, lower back pain becomes apparent only when cancer has spread outside the testes. The moment you start experiencing the same, you need to seek a medical consult right away and get yourself tested right away.

Symptoms Indicative of Primary Stage Testicular Cancer

Primary stage testicular cancer may miss detection if the tumor growth doesn't create outwardly analyzable symptoms. Fortunately, a normal level of vigilance and alertness is sufficient to detect this form of cancer when it has not assumed an invasive character. Although early detection significantly improves the chances of staging a complete turnaround, affected men have excellent chances of overcoming even advanced stage testicular cancer.

New age laparoscopic surgical techniques, testicular tumor specific blood markers, and improved chemo and radiation treatments have raised the survival rate to almost 100 percent. This is why it is vital that you seek out early medical treatment on experiencing some of the symptoms, and upon an accurate diagnosis, get yourself treated for the condition right away.

Testicular cancer is completely treatable today, and with advances in medical technology and pharmacology, you should be able to make a complete recover with little or no health complications in no time at all.

The following are the basic symptoms that are warning signs of testicular cancer:

Hardening of the Testicle(s): In the majority of testicular cancer patients, cancer makes its presence felt through a physically verifiable hardening of one or both testicles. As opposed to the normally smooth and rubbery, squishy testicle, the cancerous testicle will appear hard, much like a nut, with either the entire testes becoming larger or developing a pea sized nutty hardening on its outer surface. The swelling may or may not be accompanied by pain, and affected men may not feel any discomfort during the tumor’s expansion. Do note that there are other health conditions that can cause similar symptoms, which is why your doctor may have to run additional tests to help confirm if it is indeed testicular cancer. On confirmation, he can recommend an aggressive treatment therapy that helps to limit the spread of cancer germs and causes it to regress completely.

Feeling of Heaviness: As the tumor grows within the testes, it distends the surrounding tissue, making the testicle appear larger than its normal size. Tumor growth may also accelerate the release and accumulation of fluid within the testicular sac or scrotum, creating a heavier dragging feeling down below. This may cause you to experience sudden excruciating pain emanating from one of your testes, as well as discomfort when you move about. However, with timely medical consult and treatment, you should be able to get your condition treated on time before the cancer could spread to other areas.

Pain in the Testes: Visible hardening of the testes may be accompanied by a dull and prolonged aching sensation and feeling of tenderness, although this is not the norm. Certain cancers like testicular Cancer in situ develop asymptomatically and give little or no external indication of their growth. It is only when infertility issues are probed and when a deeper clinical examination and lab tests are conducted that testicular cancer is detected. The pain occurs only in a few cases, which is why you need to seek out medical attention on noticing an outward change of appearance in your testes, rather than wait to experience pain. It is vital that you seek out immediate medical treatment for testicular cancer right away, especially when it is in its early stages, rather than seeking treatment after it has spread to other parts of your body.

Physical Self-Examination Reveals Abnormalities: By cupping the scrotal sac in one palm and by manually pressing the testes using one’s thumb and opposing fingers, it may be possible to discern any hardening of the testicular tissue. You should exercise care not to confuse the hard outer ridge of the centrally located epididymis for testicular tumor. However, a better option would be for you to schedule an appointment with your doctor, since, as a medical professional, he would be better at detecting testicular cancer and can run several diagnostic tests to confirm the same. On confirmation, your doctor would recommend treatment therapy to help cure you of your condition and may even monitor your condition post treatment for a while.

Tenderness or Swelling in the Breasts: It is normal for a man’s breasts to develop under the influence of puberty-related hormonal changes. Testicular tumors release excessive amounts of certain hormones that may in rare instances accelerate male breast development, leading to an abnormal condition called gynecomastia. If you are indeed experiencing enlarged breasts, then this could be on account of testicular cancer, and it is vitally important that you get yourself checked out at the earliest. Your doctor will be able to confirm if you have testicular cancer or not and, upon confirmation, suggest an aggressive course of treatment to help cure you of the condition.

The Genesis of Lower Back Pain

The symptoms of lower back pain could be triggered by a variety of factors rooted in neural and musculoskeletal abnormalities or trauma, and back pain by itself cannot be relied upon as a surefire signal of testicular cancer. However, if you are experiencing persistent lower back pain, you will need to seek out medical attention, since several health conditions could cause you to experience the same. These conditions range from an inflamed abdomen to a spinal injury. This is why it is important that you ask your doctor to run a complete test and even check for signs of testicular cancer so that you can limit the spread and seek out effective medical treatment. Below are possible causes of lower back pain:

  • The nerves supplying the lower spine and limbs may become stressed due to infection or inflammation of the spinal bones and supporting musculature. Upon experiencing sharp shooting pains in the lower back area, you need to seek out a medical consult and determine if your pain is on account of some infection or inflammation. Your doctor would recommend a course of treatment to help you deal with the same.
  • A spinal disc could become herniated, applying pressure on crucial nerves that enter the lower back and limbs. Your doctor would recommend an X-ray so as to diagnose your lower back pain, and more often than not, it often turns out to be a herniated disc. Upon confirmation, your doctor would recommend a specific course of treatment to help you with the same, as well as prescribing you pain killers to help alleviate the sharp shooting pains.
  • Bones, muscles, tendons, and ligaments in the abdominal and pelvic area may disintegrate or suffer damage due to an accident or the trauma brought on by heavy lifting. Therefore, if you have started experiencing severe lower back pain while lifting heavy objects, then your pain could be associated with trauma and injury. You need to consult a physician, and he would undertake a physical examination to confirm the trauma/injury and, upon confirmation, recommend a course of treatment to help cure you of your condition.
  • Abdominal surgery done to correct urogenital issues may result in collateral damage to important organs, such as the colon and rectum, causing bowel and urinary bladder discomfort, as well as incontinence. This may cause you to experience mild to severe lower back pain, which is why your doctor would utilize various diagnostic tools to ascertain the underlying health condition. It is important that you are upfront with your doctor regarding your medical history, any procedures you may have had done in the past, as well as medications taken, as it will have a bearing on your current condition.
  • Localized swelling of the walls of an artery creates an aneurysm that radiates pain into the abdominal area. Upon seeking medical attention for the excruciating lower back pain, your doctor would run several tests to help ascertain the real reason for your pain. Aneurysms are known to cause severe lower back pain, and with the right treatment, you should be back to feeling normal sans the pain.
  • A portion of the intestinal wall weakens and protrudes outward as a hernia. This may block the blood supply to the affected area and may lead to infection, inflammation, and other serious consequences. Additionally, one of the symptoms is lower back pain, which is why your doctor would insist on running a complete battery of tests in order to diagnose your condition correctly. Upon diagnosis, your doctor would recommend aggressive treatment therapy to help treat the same effectively.

A trained general physician, not necessarily a urologist or oncologist, is capable of ascertaining the true nature of lower back pain, and the array of diagnostic tools at his disposal usually always indicates cancer, if it is indeed cancer that is the root cause of distress in the lower back. Upon confirmation that it is cancer, your doctor would run additional tests to help ascertain the spread of cancer cells to other parts of your body, and this will have a bearing on the course of treatment to be recommended. In case of the cancer cells spreading to other parts of the body, your doctor may recommend chemotherapy as part of the treatment process.

The Symptoms Characteristic of Lower Back Pain

  • Abdominal pain and discomfort are usually severe enough to block normal movement and mobility. The moment you experience this debilitating pain, it is time that you sought out treatment for the same. Your doctor would run several tests to help confirm the diagnosis, and upon confirmation, he may recommend an aggressive course of therapy.
  • The pain radiates through the back and within the abdominal cavity, defying attempts to trace its precise location. This is usually indicative of something more serious, and you need to seek out medical attention right away to get it looked at. Your doctor may recommend a series of tests to help confirm the main cause behind the pain. Upon confirmation, he would then recommend a course of treatment therapy to help cure you of the same.
  • The pain is prolonged and characterized by a constant discomfort and aching tenderness. The pain worsens when the body is physically strained, as it is in standing, walking, running, and lifting. This can indicate that you have a serious health problem that’s causing you to be nearly immobile. You need to head over to the nearest emergency room and get yourself checked out. Your doctor would run several tests to root out the cause behind this pain and, upon confirmation, even recommend a course of treatment that can help eliminate the pain you are experiencing at the moment.
  • The abdominal and back muscles may become stiff or suffer periodical spasms that vary in severity, depending on the type of activity in which one is engaged. Lying supine normally relieves the discomfort. 
  • The tummy or the small of the back may become tender to touch with or without superficial swelling.

Blood tests, ultrasounds, and screening tests will aid the physician in diagnosing the true nature of lower back pain and rule out more serious causes, including cancer.

The Connection Between Testicular Cancer and Lower Back Pain

Lower back pain is not normally associated with primary stage testicular cancer. In initial stages, cancer grows within the testicles, rarely taking an aggressive leap into the surrounding tissues and the testicular sac. Other than hardening of the testicles and localized pain, swelling, and testicular discomfort, there will be little or no indication of the progress of cancer.

In stage II and stage III testicular cancer, the tumor cells detach themselves from the seminiferous tubules (their original location) and begin to infiltrate the lymphatic system.

The lymphatic system parallels the vascular system, draining and pumping fluids through various organs. It has centralized nodal junctions that aggregate as clusters of white blood cells that filter out harmful substances and deviant cells.

The testicular fluids drain directly into the retroperitoneal lymph nodes at the back of the abdomen in front of the spine. The lymphatic ducts connecting the testes to the abdominal lymph nodes act like a highway. Cancer cells invading this highway and accessing abdominal lymph nodes begin to impair the functioning of the lymphatic system, causing inflammation and pain in adjacent organs. In such situations, lower back pain signals the onset of an advanced stage of testicular cancer that needs immediate remedial action, usually implying surgery and chemotherapy coupled with radiation treatment.

CT scanning is usually helpful in ruling out cancer as the primary factor causing lower back pain. If cancer is detected, detailed diagnostic imaging techniques help stage cancer, paving the way for more aggressive treatments.  

The Last Word

As long as testicular cancer remains confined to the testes in its primary stage, symptoms of testicular discomfort may be the only indicator of the malady. If cancer is detected early, surgical removal of the testicle (orchiectomy) combined with radiation therapy and chemo treatments usually suffices to stop the cancer from spreading. Pain in the lower back will be indicative of the fact that testicular cancer has penetrated the lymphatic system and is poised to spread outwards to the lungs and other important organs.