Ok, today we are going to get straight to the point… Guys you need to get into the routine of checking your testicles aka “the crown jewels”. Testicular cancer is the 2nd most common cancer affecting men aged between 18-40. In today’s blog we are going to look at the risk factors, assessment, symptoms, treatment and outcomes for testicular cancer.
Often we start our blogs by looking at the anatomy and location of the body part in discussion, but when talking about the crown jewels, I hope that this isn’t going to be necessary! What the medical experts are saying is necessary though, is for guys to get into the habit of performing self-checks on their testicles. They say you should get to know the shape and feel of them, so that you will know what’s up if something doesn’t feel right…
Tips on checking your testicles
- Get in a warm bath or shower to get the scrotum relaxed
- Gently roll one testicle between your thumb and finger to get to know what’s normal
- Repeat with your other testicle
- They should feel smooth, firm and sensitive, but not painful
- Interestingly, it’s considered normal for one testicle to feel slightly bigger than the other, and the left testicle often hangs lower than the right!
- If they feel lumpy, hard or you sense something isn’t quite right, see your doctor straight away for a full assessment
Image courtesy Andrology Australia
So what exactly is testicular cancer?
It is an abnormal growth or tumour that develops in your testicle. If addressed with your doctor as soon as the lump, swelling, or pain is felt, the cancer can remain localised and its spread throughout the body prevented.
What are the symptoms?
- Hard, lumpy feeling in the testicle
- For 1 in 10 men, the lump may feel painful
- Constant backache, tender or enlarged nipples, coughing or breathlessness may mean the cancer has spread
What are the risk factors? Can it be prevented?
- Men between 18-40 are most likely to be affected
- Undescended testes. 10 times the chance of testicular cancer if left untreated at birth
- Previous testicular cancer increases your risk. Unfortunately 1 in 25 men develop cancer in their other testicle
- Previous male infertility
- Family history is a minor risk factor
- Down Syndrome
At this stage, there is no evidence of ways to prevent the cancer forming. This includes no evidence of sporting activities or sexual behaviours that can cause one’s risk.
Should I see a doctor if I have a lump in my testicles?
Yes, yes, yes! Guys don’t ignore it, if you notice a hard lump or any change in either testicle, see your local doctor straight away. They will perform a full physical examination and if required, they may send you for scans and blood tests to confirm your diagnosis.
How is testicular cancer treated?
The treatment options for testicular cancer depend on the type and stage of cancer. Firstly, an “orchidectomy” (surgical removal of the affected testis) is performed with all suspected cases of testicular cancer. The testicle is then sent off for testing to confirm the stage and type of cancer.
Chemotherapy or radiotherapy can be given after surgery to kill off any cancer cells that may have spread to other parts of the body. These treatments come with side-effects, the pros and cons of which are normally discussed prior to commencing these therapies.
Once the cancer treatment has finished, regular check-ups with your surgeon or doctor may be performed for at least 10 years to make sure the cancer hasn’t returned.
Take home message
Know thy nuts! Get into the habit of self-checks of your testicles. If you notice anything not quite right, see your doctor straight away for a full examination. The longer you leave it, the more chance the cancer may spread and your outcomes become less positive.