What are Symptoms of Testicular Cancer?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Testicular cancer is a relatively uncommon type of cancer, occurring in less than one percent of all cancers. Malignant cells can form in or around one of the testicles, creating a palpable lump. Cancer of the testicles also primarily affects men between the ages of 20 to 34, though it can occur in men younger or older. Symptoms like feeling a lump or pressure in the scrotum can help diagnose the disease in its early stages.

A man should discuss symptoms like a lump or heavy feeling in the scrotum with a physician.
A man should discuss symptoms like a lump or heavy feeling in the scrotum with a physician.

Along with feeling an actual lump, symptoms can also include a heavy feeling in the scrotum. The scrotum may also feel like it is being pulled down. A man’s breast tissue may be slightly enlarged or feel tender. Testicular cancer is also identified with pain in the testicles, penis or scrotum. The pain may be intermittent.

Most signs of testicular cancer start in the scrotum.
Most signs of testicular cancer start in the scrotum.

Fluid may collect in the scrotum, causing the scrotum to seem unusually large. Men may also notice an aching stomach. As well the groin area may be painful or have a dull achy feel.

Rarely, testicular cancer can cause swelling of the testicles.
Rarely, testicular cancer can cause swelling of the testicles.

Though women are often asked to perform monthly breast self-examinations, men are seldom asked to perform monthly testicular self-exams. These self-examinations can prove very helpful in early diagnosis of testicular cancer. They are best undertaken in showers where the water can help the man easily feel his scrotum and thus have a “normal” base. A monthly exam can help a man recognize any differences that may have occurred.

An ultrasound can help a physician diagnose testicular cancer.
An ultrasound can help a physician diagnose testicular cancer.

Sometimes men mistakenly believe they have cancer because one testicle seems larger than the other. This is actually quite normal and is not cause for alarm unless the size difference between testicles is significant. In a self-exam men may also notice a tubal structure located toward the anus. This is the epididymus, the tube that allows sperm to flow from the penis. Feeling the epididymus upon self-examination is completely normal.

Chemotherapy may be used to treat testicular cancer.
Chemotherapy may be used to treat testicular cancer.

Should you notice a lump, or be experiencing the above symptoms, you should contact a doctor immediately. Early stage testicular cancer has a 90% cure rate. Having more than one of the above symptoms should mean contacting a doctor immediately for further testing. As the cancer progresses, survival rate can drop. Also, this condition can be the result of cancer in another part of the body that has spread to the testicles.

Additional risk factors for testicular cancer include having a brother with the condition and being from a higher socio-economic group. An infrequent manifestation of mumps can also cause testicular cancer. Since most people are immunized against mumps, this is very rare. Those with fertility issues should also be tested to rule out testicular cancer.

Normal tests involve examination by a physician, ultrasound of the scrotum, and blood tests. Occasionally a lump is biopsied to check for malignant cells or to determine the stage of the cancer. Treatment can include removing the lump, and frequently includes removing the affected testicle. Follow-up treatment tends to include radiation or chemotherapy. Though uncommon, testicular cancer is deadly if untreated. However, treatment usually results in a high success rate. Men with this condition often go on to live normal and healthy lives, and are not affected sexually by the removal of a testicle.

Pain in the testicles or groin area, even if it's intermittent, may point to testicular cancer.
Pain in the testicles or groin area, even if it's intermittent, may point to testicular cancer.
Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent wiseGEEK contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

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