Testicular cancer occurs in the testicles, which are located inside the scrotum, a loose bag of skin underneath the penis. The testicles produce male sex hormones and sperm for reproduction. Compared with other types of cancer, testicular cancer is somewhat rare. However, testicular cancer is one of the most common cancers in American males between the ages of 15 and 35. A good thing is that testicular cancer is highly treatable. This is the case even when cancer has spread beyond the testicle. Depending on the type and stage of testicular cancer, you may receive one of several treatments, or a combination. Here is what you need to know about the symptoms of testicular cancer.
Symptoms and Signs
Men with testicular cancer may experience a great deal of different symptoms or signs. Sometimes, men with testicular cancer do not have any of these changes. Or, the cause of a symptom may be a different medical condition that is not a testicular cancer. So, having these symptoms does not mean that a man definitely has cancer.
Usually, an enlarged testicle or a small lump or area of hardness is the first sign of testicular cancer. Any lump, enlargement, pain, or tenderness should be immediately evaluated by a doctor. Other symptoms of testicular cancer generally do not appear until after the cancer has spread to other parts of the body.
Symptoms of testicular cancer may include:
- A painless lump or swelling on either testicle. If found early, a testicular tumor may be about the size of a marble.
- Pain, discomfort, or numbness in a testicle or the scrotum.
- Change in the way a testicle feels or a feeling of heaviness in the scrotum. Or testicular cancer may cause the testicle to grow bigger or to become smaller.
- Dull ache in the lower abdomen or groin
- Breast tenderness or growth. Although rare, some testicular tumors make hormones that cause breast tenderness or growth of breast tissue, a condition called gynecomastia.
- Lower back pain, shortness of breath, chest pain, and bloody sputum or phlegm can be symptoms of later-stage testicular cancer.
- Swelling of one or both legs or shortness of breath from a blood clot can be a symptom of testicular cancer. For some young or middle-aged men, developing a blood clot may be the first sign of testicular cancer.
Many symptoms and signs of testicular cancer are similar to those caused by noncancerous conditions. These are discussed below:
- Change in size or a lump in a testicle
- A cyst called a spermatocele that develops in the epididymis. The epididymis is a small organ attached to the testicle that is made up of coiled tubes that carry sperm away from the testicle.
- An enlargement of the blood vessels from the testicle called a varicocele.
- An opening in the abdominal muscle called a hernia.
- Infection. Infection of the testicle is called orchitis. Infection of the epididymis is called epididymitis. If infection is suspected, a patient may be given a prescription for antibiotics. If antibiotics do not solve the problem, tests for testicular cancer are often required.
There can be some overlap of symptoms between advanced and early testicular cancer. Additionally, many symptoms listed above may occur with other diseases. Therefore, individuals should seek medical caregivers (primary care physicians, urologists, oncologists, and pathologists,) to get a definitive diagnosis. There's no way to prevent testicular cancer. Some doctors recommend regular testicle self-examinations in order to identify testicular cancer at its earliest stage. But not all doctors agree. In any case, make sure to discuss testicular self-examination with your doctor if you're unsure about whether it's right for you.