While much is written about breast and prostate cancer, relatively little is written about what is, in many countries, the most common malignancy (other than skin cancer) striking young adult men: testicular cancer. Let’s briefly discuss the main facts about this disease, then consider the good news regarding treatment.
How can a man discover he has testicular cancer?
In our last post we discussed some of the most common symptoms of cancer, and number 5 on our list was “A thickening or lump in the breast, testicles, or other parts of your body”. Discovering a lump in the scrotum, that might be either painless or painful, if the most common first symptom of testicular cancer. Many of these lumps are not cancer, but the only way to know is to go to the doctor, be examined, and have an ultrasound. Then if needed, a biopsy is done to see if the lump is cancer or not.
Is this only a disease of young men?
While prostate cancer is the most common cancer striking older men, testicular cancer most commonly appears in men aged 20 to 39. But it can still happen at any age. About 21% of those affected are age 20 or below, and about 22% are older than 44 years.
What causes testicular cancer?
The most common factor that predisposes to testicular cancer is a history of an undescended testicle (testicle that remains in the abdomen rather than descends to the scrotum), and for these men, the risk remains elevated even if they had surgery to place the testicle in the scrotum. Also a family history of testicular cancer increases the risk, but most men who develop testicular cancer have neither of these risk factors.
The rates of testicular cancer have been rising in the past decade, and some researchers have suspected some environmental cause, and some research suggests that marijuana smokers have a higher risk.
What is the treatment for testicular cancer?
In some cases discovered early, surgery alone may cure the cancer, but a person treated in this way will need close followup visits for at least two years following treatment. Most people who are diagnosed with testicular cancer will need, in addition to removal of the testicle, radiation therapy or chemotherapy to cure the cancer. In all cases, the minimum treatment is removal of the testicle and adjacent spermatic cord.
What is the cure rate for testicular cancer?
This is the good news. If the disease is found when it is still in the testicle or surrounding tissues, the cure rate is over 95%, and even if the tumor has spread to distant areas (metastasis), the cure rate is about 74%. And in most all cases of testicular cancer, the man can keep one healthy testicle, and continue to produce sperm and testosterone.
What should I do if I think I might have testicular cancer?
Get checked right away, and this is a disease where you want to make sure you see a qualified specialist (urologist) to get the proper diagnosis and care. Chances are you probably don’t have cancer, but if you do, the sooner you are diagnosed the better. Men who are concerned about detecting testicular cancer early might consider monthly testicular self-exams, in the same way many women do monthly breast self-examinations.
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