With Movember in full swing, we’re talking about the importance of being testicular cancer aware. We advise how to check yourself, the signs and symptoms to look out for and the different types of testicular cancer.
It’s estimated that 1 in 195 men will get testicular cancer in their lifetime1. However, many men are unaware of the symptoms, which is why it’s so important to be aware of the disease.
Do your exams
The testicles are the main organs of the male reproductive system, producing sperm and the hormone testosterone. It’s important to note that most lumps and bumps around the testicles area are not a sign of cancer, but they are one of the common symptoms to look out for.
From puberty onwards, it's important that men check their testicles regularly (once a month) for anything unusual like a lump or swelling. The more often you do this you'll soon get to know what feels normal for you. The best time is during or right after a warm bath or shower, when the skin of your scrotum is relaxed.
Hold your scrotum in the palm of your hand and use your fingers and thumb to examine each testicle. Feel for lumps, anything unusual or differences between your testicles. (However, it's normal for one to be slightly different in size and for one to hang lower than the other.) A healthy testicle should feel smooth and firm (not hard).
The epididymis (the tube that carries sperm) lies at the top of the back part of each testicle. It feels like a soft coiled tube. It's not uncommon to get harmless cysts or benign lumps in the epididymis.
Common symptoms of testicular cancer
The most common symptom is a lump in a testicle, but it's not the only one. Others can include:
- A swelling in a testicle, which is usually painless – although the swelling may suddenly increase in size and become painful
- Pain or heaviness in the scrotum
- A pain in one testes and an ache in the lower stomach
Sometimes cancer cells from the testicle can spread to nearby lymph nodes (also known as glands). Lymph nodes are small and round and we have lots of them throughout the body. They're connected to each other by a network of tiny lymphatic vessels that carry a fluid called lymph, which contains cells that help us fight infection. If cancer has spread to the lymph nodes or other parts of the body, these may be some of the following symptoms:
- Pain in the back, groin, or lower abdomen. This can be caused by the spread of the cancer to lymph nodes in the back of the abdomen.
- A cough or breathlessness if lymph nodes in the chest area are affected, or (rarely) if the cancer has spread to the lungs.
- Nipple/breast tenderness or breast swelling. This isn't common but can be caused by hormones produced by the cancer.
Types of testicular cancer
There are two main types of testicular cancer:
- Seminomas. These usually occur in men between 25 and 45 years of age.
- Non-seminomatous germ cell tumours (NSGCTs). This group of tumours usually affects younger men – from about 15 to 35 years old. Sometimes a type of cancer called non-Hodgkin lymphoma can also occur in the testicle.
Are you worried? If anything is troubling you, get in touch. You may well find there's nothing of any concern.
Download our free male cancers signs and symptoms guide and get clued up today.
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