Males of all ages are at risk of developing testicular cancer. Fortunately, the American Cancer Society estimates fewer than 10,000 cases for 2021. Regardless of the relatively low number of cases, testicular cancer is a condition that all men should educate themselves about. The most common age range for this disease is 15 to 44. Therefore, fathers should not only learn to identify the signs of testicular cancer in themselves but should also talk to their sons about how to begin guarding their health early and without fear. The more we know about conditions like testicular cancer, the less mysterious and scary they become.
The testicles are part of the male reproductive system involved in the production and transfer of sperm. Two small glands located in the scrotum sac just behind the penis, the testicles feel like miniature eggs. They are spongy but also have a slight firmness to them. Most often, one is larger than the other. This may not be noticeable until a man gets used to performing monthly self-exams. More on that in a moment. In addition to the testicles, the scrotum also houses the epididymis, a tube-like structure that passes sperm to the vas deferens.
Signs of Testicular Cancer
The most common sign of testicular cancer is a painless lump on one of the testicles. Because the condition begins “quietly,” with no outward signs, doctors recommend regular self-exams. Additional signs may occur as the disease progresses. These include:
- Swelling or a sensation of heaviness in the scrotum, with or without pain. The majority of diagnoses have not involved pain.
- A persistent or frequent ache or pain in the testicles, scrotum, or groin.
- Changes in breast tissue, such as puffy nipples or breast tenderness.
The Self-Exam for Testicular Cancer Detection
As women are advised to perform monthly breast exams, men are advised to perform testicular self-exams every month. The point of the monthly exam is to get to know one’s body. It is important to know what is normal and what is not. Without monthly exams, there is no baseline from which to start. The exam is quick. Most men do it in the shower to make it an easy-to-remember habit. To perform the exam:
- Use the thumb and forefinger to gently hold one testicle at a time. Roll the testicle between the fingers to sense firmness. This should be consistent throughout the testicle, not firm in one area and soft in another.
- Using the thumb and forefinger, find the vas deferens and the epididymis to become familiar with how they feel.
- Feel around the testicles and scrotum for swelling, lumps, and bumps. If any are found, schedule a visit with a urologist.
Testicular cancer sounds scary. We understand. The more awareness men of all ages have, the sooner they can obtain care if necessary. Remember, testicular cancer is curable. Don’t wait to start that monthly self-exam or to call your doctor if you have questions. We’re here to help. Call UT Urology in Chattanooga at (423) 778-5910.