Is it the cause of that lump?
While performing your monthly testicular exam, you notice a small lump on one of your testicles. You go to the doctor and he confirms what you suspect…you have testicular cancer. How serious is this? Is it treatable? What are the next steps?
Testicular cancer is the most common type of cancer in men between 15 to 35. This type of cancer occurs in the testicles, which are inside the scrotum. The testicles are responsible for producing male sex hormones and sperm. It’s not clear what causes testicular cancer to occur, but the majority start in the germ cells (the cells that produce immature sperm). Cancer occurs when cells don’t grow and divide normally. Typically, cells grow and divide in an orderly fashion. Cancer cells don’t do this; instead, they continue to grow even when new cells aren’t needed, resulting in a mass forming.
Testicular cancer symptoms include a lump/enlargement in either testicle, heaviness feeling in the scrotum, dull ache in the abdomen/groin, sudden collection of fluid in the scrotum, pain/discomfort in the testicle/scrotum, enlargement/tenderness of the breasts, and back pain. It’s important to note that cancer usually only affects one testicle. Certain factors can increase your chances of getting testicular cancer, such as age, a family history of the condition, being white, and abnormal testicle development (as occurs with Klinefelter syndrome and undescended testicle). It’s important to note that even if an undescended testicle is surgically repaired, the individual is still at a higher risk of developing testicular cancer. It’s key to diagnose testicular cancer early to get the best outcomes. This is why if you notice a lump or any symptoms that last longer than two weeks, you should see your doctor.
To determine if you have cancer, your doctor will do an ultrasound and blood tests. After these, if the lump is thought to be cancerous, your testicle may need to be removed. This will help to determine the type, which there are two. Nonseminomas typically develop earlier in life, grow/spread rapidly, and have several subtypes. Seminoas can occur in any age group but is more likely to be found in older men. This type isn’t as aggressive. Once the diagnosis is confirmed, your doctor will stage the cancer using a scale of 0 to III, with the latter indicating that the cancer has spread to other areas of the body.
Once your doctor has this information and evaluates your overall health, they’ll provide you with treatment options. The primary preference for all stages and types is to remove the affected testicle. If nearby lymph nodes are impacted, they should be removed as well. Sometimes, after removal for those with seminoma, their doctor might recommend radiation therapy to kill any cancer cells that were left behind. Radiation therapy uses high-powered energy beams (like X-rays) focused on specific areas. Another option is chemotherapy, which uses medications that travel throughout your body to kill cancer cells.
There isn’t a specific way to prevent testicular cancer from happening. However, it’s important to prevent complications. This means taking care of your physical health by eating a healthy diet, exercising as much as possible with your doctor’s approval, getting plenty of rest, reducing stress, and making good lifestyle choices, such as not smoking. Learn as much as you can about testicular cancer since this will make you more comfortable when making decisions regarding your treatment. If you have any concerns about your ability to have children, be sure to discuss this with your doctor before starting any treatment plan. It’s also important to speak to a counselor/psychologist and stay connected with family and friends.
Getting the news, you have testicular cancer can be devastating. With all the different treatment options, the likelihood of defeating it is high. If you have any questions or concerns about testicular cancer, please speak with your doctor. If you would like more information, please visit the American Cancer Society’s Testicular Cancer page at https://www.cancer.org/cancer/testicular-cancer/about/what-is-testicular-cancer.html