Testicular cancer is relatively rare. There are about 8,800 cases reported in the United States each year. Like all cancers, the earlier it’s detected, the easier it is to treat. That’s why it’s so important to learn testicular cancer risk factors and symptoms. We talked to Matthew Campbell, M.D., assistant professor of Genitourinary Medical Oncology, to learn more about testicular cancer. Here’s what he had to say.
Who’s at risk for testicular cancer?
Testicular cancer can affect men at any age. But the average age of patients affected is between 15 and 35. Common risk factors include:
- An undescended testicle
- Family history of testicular cancer
- A personal history testicular cancer
What are testicular cancer symptoms?
The most common testicular cancer symptom is painless swelling or a lump. Other symptoms include:
- Change in consistency of the testicles
- Feeling of heaviness in the scrotum
- Dull ache in the lower abdomen or the groin
- Sudden collection of fluid in the scrotum
- Pain or discomfort in a testicle or in the scrotum
- Breast growth or loss of sexual desire
- Growth of facial and body hair at an abnormally young age
- Lower back pain if cancer spreads
- Sudden severe shortness of breath or a bloody cough
- Unexplained fevers, weight loss or night sweats
What are some ways to detect testicular cancer?
It’s important to understand your body. You want to be able to recognize any changes. If you do notice changes, talk to your doctor right away.
Starting around age 15, boys should learn how to do a self-exam. The easiest way to look for unusual lumps, bumps or other symptoms is after a shower.
Building an open relationship with your doctor helps, too. Make sure your doctor is someone you feel comfortable talking to, even about subjects that may be awkward or uncomfortable.
Testicular cancer symptoms can be awkward to talk about. What advice do have for parents trying to teach their sons to look for testicular cancer symptoms?
Teach your children to be aware of their own bodies so they can recognize any abnormalities or changes. Not only will this help them recognize testicular cancer symptoms, but symptoms of other cancers or other diseases.
This is also true for special-needs children. We are seeing an increase in late-stage diagnosis of testicular cancer in men with autism or developmental differences, and we suspect it’s because they’re less likely to talk to someone about these changes.
Teach your children the importance of getting regular exams or physicals and encourage them to form an open relationship with their doctors. This will help them report any changes or abnormalities.
Why is early detection important?
Testicular cancer treatment success rates are high. About 95% of cases can be cured. But men with testicular cancer diagnosed in later, more advanced stages have worse outcomes. Recognizing and acting on cancer symptoms can keep you from having to undergo more extensive testicular cancer treatment.
Surgery, chemotherapy and radiation have all come a long way and have less side-effects than they used to, but our goal is to limit the long-term side-effects of these treatments if possible.