Testicular Cancer Awareness
The most common symptom of testicular cancer is a lump or swelling in part of one testicle. Remember - most testicular lumps are NOT cancer. At a testicular clinic at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham, only 76 cancers were found out of 2,000 men seen with a testicular lump. This means fewer than 4 in every 100 testicular lumps (4%) are cancer (figures courtesy of Mr Mike Wallace, FRCS).
The earlier a cancer is picked up, the easier it is to treat it and the more likely the treatment is to be successful. So it is important that you go to your GP as soon as possible if you notice worrying symptoms.
Discomfort or pain
A lump that is cancer can be as small as a pea, or may be much larger. It is not usually painful, but some men have a dull ache in:
The affected testicle
Their lower abdomen
A heavy scrotum
Your scrotum may feel heavy. Your GP may shine a strong light through your testicle. If you have a fluid filled cyst (called a hydrocoele) rather than a cancer, the light will show through. A cancer is a solid lump and the light can't pass through it. Your doctor may call this test 'transillumination'.
Hormones in the blood
Many testicular cancers make hormones that can be detected in blood tests. Doctors call these markers. Occasionally, men with testicular cancer have tender or swollen breasts because of these hormones.
What to look out for
To notice changes you need to know what is normal for you. Hold your scrotum in the palms of your hands, so that you can use the fingers and thumb on both hands to examine your testicles. Note the size and weight of the testicles. It is common to have one testicle slightly larger, or which hangs lower than the other, but any noticeable increase in size or weight may mean something is wrong.
Gently feel each testicle individually. You should feel a soft tube at the top and back of the testicle. This is the epididymis which carries and stores sperm. It may feel slightly tender. Don't confuse it with an abnormal lump. You should be able to feel the firm, smooth tube of the spermatic cord which runs up from the epididymis.
Feel the testicle itself. It should be smooth with no lumps or swellings. It is unusual to develop cancer in both testicles at the same time, so if you are wondering whether a testicle is feeling normal or not you can compare it with the other.
Remember - if you do find a swelling in your testicle, make an appointment and have it checked by your doctor as soon as possible.
References - Cancer Research UK
Further information can be found at the following links: