Testicular Cancer Symptoms

Signs and Symptoms of Testicular Cancer

word testicular cancer under magnifying glass
What are the signs and symptoms of testicular cancer?. Credit: Istockphoto.com/Stock Photo©vitanovski

What are the symptoms of testicular cancer you should be aware of, and when should you see your doctor?

Testicular Cancer

Testicular cancer is the most common solid tumor in men between the ages of 15 and 35, although it ranks 25th overall in causes of cancer. Many men are under the assumption that a testicle lump is the only sign, however there are quite a few symptoms of the disease. Also, finding a lump in the testicle does not always mean it is cancer.

Other conditions do share the same symptoms.  There are several types and several subtypes of testicular cancer.

Risk factors may include a history of having had an undescended testicle or a family history of testicular cancer, but many men do not have any obvious risk factors for the disease.  Testicular cancer has increased over the past few decades, but thankfully the majority of men will be cured from their disease.

Just as it's recommended that women do monthly self breast exams, it's recommended that men do testicular self exams.

Testicular Cancer Symptoms

Since we don't have a screening test for testicular cancer, the only way that it can be detected early is if men are aware of the common symptoms - and make an appointment to see their doctor if they experience any of these. Common symptoms of testicular cancer include:

Testicular lump - A lump in a testicle or both testicles   Most often the lump is painless, but in some cases it will cause pain.

  The lump may be small like a hard pea, or somewhat larger, like a marble.  Many of these tumors feel very hard, or "rock like."  It's important to note that the most common cause of a lump felt in a testicle in not testicular cancer, but rather something else. 

Swollen scrotum - Swelling or heaviness in or near the scrotum may be a symptom.

Scrotal pain - Men may experience pain or some form of discomfort in the scrotum.

Back, pelvic, or groin pain - Sometimes, the first symptom may be an ache in the lower back, pelvis, or groin area.

Fluid in the scrotum - A collection of fluid may occur in the scrotum.

Breast enlargement - Some testicular tumors secrete hormones which can result in tenderness and growth of the breasts (gynecomastia.)

Symptoms related to metastases - When testicular cancer spreads, men may have symptoms related to the area of the body to which the cancer spreads.  For example, if the cancer spreads to the lung a man might develop a cough, chest pain, or shortness of breath.  Testicular cancer usually metastasizes first to local lymph nodes, followed by the lungs.  This cancer may also spread to the central nervous system, bones, liver, and other regions of the body.

Differential Diagnosis/Other Causes of These Symptoms

There are several conditions which can have symptoms similar to those of testicular cancer including:

  • Inguinal hernias - An inguinal hernia may cause groin pain and may be felt as a lump in the scrotum, particularly with coughing or straining.
  • Spermatocele - A spermatocele is a cyst in the epididymis.
  • Variocele - A variocele is an enlargement of the blood vessels near the testicle.
  • Hydrocele - A hydrocele is a buildup of fluid around the membrane which surrounds the testicle.
  • Orchitis - Orchitis refers to inflammation of one or both testicles and is most often bacterial or viral.
  • Injury/trauma

What To Expect at the Doctor

A physical exam is the first step in diagnosing testicular cancer. Your doctor will check your scrotum and feel the testicles for lumps, swelling, or tenderness. He may also check your abdomen for lymph node swelling.

Abnormal findings may lead to an ultrasound, which will give the doctor an internal view of testicular lumps. Blood tests may also be ordered to check for specific enzyme and protein levels in the blood. The presence and elevation of these may indicate a testicular tumor.

Diagnostic surgery to remove and biopsy the abnormal tissue is necessary to make a definitive diagnosis. In this procedure the tumor and the testicle are removed. The abnormal tissue is sent to the pathology lab, where it is examined under a microscope to screened for cancer.  Learn more about how testicular cancer is diagnosed.

Source

American Cancer Society. Do I Have Testicular Cancer?. Early Detection and Prevention. 02 Dec 2008. Accessed 19 July 2010.
http://www.cancer.org/docroot/PED/content/PED_2_3X_Do_I_Have_Testicular_Cancer.asp

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