It is the second week for our Movember series! In conjunction with the Movember movement during November, we will be covering men’s health issues to raise awareness on men’s well being. Following last week’s article on prostate cancer, today we will be covering the second issue in the Movember series, which is testicular cancer.
About the testis
Testis, or testes, in plural, is a part of the external male reproductive system. Testes are located hanging under the penis in a sac-like pouch with a rugous surface called scrotum. The testes produce sperm and male hormone testosterone, which is responsible for maturation of male reproductive organ and development of secondary sexual characteristics.
About testicular cancer
Testicular cancer occurs when healthy cells in the testis change (mutate) and grow out of control, forming a mass or tumour. A fact about testicular cancer is, unlike other cancers, it predominantly affects young males, particularly between age 30 and 39. However, it can occur at any age.¹
Classification of testicular cancer
Most testicular cancers develop from the sperm-producing cells, or germ cells, referred to as germ cell tumours. There are 2 types of germ cell tumours in testicular cancer, namely seminoma and non-seminoma, depending on the types of cells affected. These 2 types of cancer have different growth and spreading patterns, hence have different treatment methods. Among the two, non-seminomas tend to grow and spread more quickly. On the other hand, seminomas are more sensitive to radiation.²
Risk factors of developing testicular cancer
Age: More than half of the men who are diagnosed with testicular cancer are between age 20 and 45
Undescended testis (cryptorchidism): A condition where 1 or both testes do not move down into scrotum before birth. This condition is usually treated in childhood so the man may not know about him having this condition. However, men with this condition are at higher risk of developing testicular cancer
Family history: Risk of testicular cancer increases if someone in the family (especially father or brother) had the cancer
Personal history: Patients having cancer in one testis is more likely to develop cancer in another testis
Race: Studies show among all races, white men are at highest risk of developing testicular cancer. On the other hand, testicular cancer is rare in black men
Signs and symptoms of testicular cancer
These signs and symptoms may be caused by testicular cancer or by other non-cancer conditions. Do not panic, but first check with your doctor if you have any of the following:
Swelling on either testis, which is painless
Pain, discomfort or numbness of the testis, with or without swelling
Unusual sensation of testis on touch, e.g felt firmer than the other testis
Dull ache in the lower abdomen or groin
Sudden buildup of fluid in the scrotum
Lower back pain, shortness of breath, chest pain, and bloody sputum or phlegm (symptoms of late stage testicular cancer)
Breast tenderness or growth, due to hormonal imbalance
Most testicular cancers are found insidiously, during self examination of testis or during sexual activity. Most of them can be diagnosed at an early stage, where successful treatment is more likely. It is good to perform a monthly self examination of the testes, to find for any changes.
Steps of self examination of testis
Get yourself a warm shower, to increase the blood circulation to the testes
Roll testis between your thumb and finger, feel the normal size and consistency of the testis
Repeat with testis at other side
If you notice a change in shape and size, a lump that wasn’t there before, or painful sensation, visit your doctor immediately to get a thorough examination
Testicular cancer is a highly treatable cancer and can be effectively treated, with the right treatment and early diagnosis. Awareness and self examination of testis is important. Do not be shy to approach your healthcare provider if you notice something suspicious about your testes.
Cancer.net. Testicular cancer. Available at: https://www.cancer.net/cancer-types/testicular-cancer/
NIH- National Cancer Institute. Testicular Cancer treatment, patient version. Available at: https://www.cancer.gov/types/testicular/patient/testicular-treatment-pdq
Movember. Men’s health- Testicular cancer. Available at: https://uk.movember.com/mens-health/testicular-cancer
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