According to Macmillan Cancer Support, around 2,100 men are diagnosed with testicular cancer each year. This makes it one of the less common forms of cancer. However, incidences of the disease are on the rise on a global level.
It generally affects younger men, but this doesn’t mean it doesn’t occur in the over 60s age group. It’s still just as important to be aware of the symptoms and to know how to check your testicles for the sake of your health.
Testicular Cancer: The Facts
The testicles have a vital role in the human reproductive system. They’re at risk of different types of cancer, germ cell testicular cancer, leydig cell tumours, sertoli tumours and lymphoma. Of all the types, germ cell testicular cancer is by far the most common, accounting for about 95% of all cases. There are two types of germ cell testicular cancer; seminomas and non-seminomas. Both respond equally well to chemotherapy.
Testicular cancer accounts for only 1% of cancers in men. However, white men are 5 times more likely to get the disease than black men, and figures show that cases of testicular cancer have doubled since the mid-1970s. It’s not known exactly why this is.
The Signs and Symptoms
By far the most common symptom is a lump in one of the testicles. Generally, it is likely to be small; approximately the same size as a pea, though occasionally, it can be larger. It’s important to note that most lumps in the testicles are not cancerous. However, you should always get it checked out by your doctor.
In addition to a lump, you may also experience other symptoms. These include:
- A sensation of heaviness in the scrotum.
- Pain or discomfort in the testicles or scrotum. This may come and go, and may be either dull or sharp.
- Swelling in the scrotum.
- A general feeling of tiredness or being unwell.
If you notice any of these signs, it’s a good idea to book an appointment with your GP to arrange for a proper examination.
Examining Your Testicles
It’s a good idea to get familiar with your testicles and to know their normal shape and size. This will help you to detect if any abnormalities develop in the area. You don’t necessarily need to be rigorous with your checking, but it’s a good idea to make sure you feel them regularly. After a shower or bath is a good time, as the scrotal skin is relaxed, enabling you to more easily identify any unusual lumps.
To examine them properly, place your scrotum in one palm, then use the fingers on the other hand to gently feel the area. You’ll feel a tube at the top and back of the testicle, which is the epididymis, the tube responsible for carrying sperm. The testicles themselves should feel smooth. If you’re concerned about any lump or swelling, arrange for a proper medical examination.
Remember, visiting your doctor is nothing to be embarrassed by. It’s likely that there won’t be a serious problem, but it’s far more sensible to get yourself properly assessed than leave it to chance.
If you are concerned about a friend or loved one who might be affected by testicular cancer but who is unwilling to seek treatment, please pass on this article to them via the links at the foot of the page.