Although young men may not be eager to talk about it, testicular cancer is the most common type of cancer found in males aged 15 to 35.
About one in 250 men will develop testicular cancer. According to the Testicular Cancer Society, more than 8,800 American men are diagnosed each year, with more than 400 dying from it. The average age of diagnosis is 33, with Caucasian men being five times more likely to develop it than African Americans. Hispanic men are diagnosed at a rate between those two races.
Self-Exams Are Key to Early Detection
The cancer may form as a tumor in one or both testicles. Testicular cancer is usually found by an individual during a self-examination.
Men of all ages should make a point of examining their testicles once a month, ideally after a warm bath or shower when the scrotum is relaxed. Place the index and middle fingers on the bottom of the testicle, with the thumb on top. Gently roll the testicle to feel for any lumps or irregularities on the surface of the testicle.
Most tumors are metastatic, meaning it can spread to other areas such as the lungs, lymph system and brain. When detected early, testicular cancer is highly treatable – the survival rate is almost 100% when detected before it can spread to other parts of the body. If caught later, the survival rate falls to 74%.
Testicular cancer treatment varies based upon the type and stage it’s detected, but may include:
- Surgery: The operation to remove a testicle with cancer is known as radical inguinal orchiectomy. Because trying to remove just the tumor can be ineffective and cause the cancer to spread, the entire affected testicle is often removed.
- Radiation: Radiation therapy may be used after surgery to decrease the risk of the cancer returning. This treatment may last several weeks.
- Chemotherapy: This treatment involves the use of drugs to kill cancerous cells that may have originated from the testicle. Talk to your doctor about the risk of infertility due to chemotherapy.
If you notice an abnormality in your testicle, immediately schedule an appointment with your Southeastern Med family physician. You may be referred to a urologist, who may order an ultrasound to determine the presence of a tumor.