While it may be the most common form of cancer in young men between ages 20 and 35 (and far more common in Caucasian than African American men[i]), testicular cancer itself is relatively rare, estimated to represent less than half of one percent of all new cancer cases in 2014. It’s also highly treatable, with a more than 90 percent cure rate.
Testicular Cancer Risk Factors
However, it’s still important to know the signs and symptoms of the disease, especially if you have any of the risk factors.
Risk factors include:
- Being between the ages of 20-35 years
- Having or having had one or more undescended testicle
- Having an atrophic testicle (a testicle that is smaller in size than normal)
- Having cancer in the other testicle
- Having mumps orchitis (an inflammation of the testes caused by the mumps virus)
- Klinefelter syndrome (a condition caused by having more than one X chromosome)
- Being Caucasian
Types of Testicular Cancer
Testicular cancer occurs when cancer cells grow in one or both testicles. There are three main types of testicular cancer:
- Seminomas: A type of cancer that begins in cells that make sperm [ii]
- Nonseminomas: Often made up of more than one type of cell, and identified according to these different cell types — yolk sac, embryonal cell carcinoma, teratomas and choriocarcinoma (rare)
- Stromal cell tumors: a rare type of testicular tumor, usually not cancerous and usually occurring during childhood
Symptoms of Testicular Cancer
While testicular cancer can occur without any symptoms, the following can be indicators of the disease:
- A feeling of heaviness in the scrotum
- Discomfort or pain in the testicle
- Pain or dull ache in the back or lower abdomen or groin
- Enlarged testicle or a change in the way it feels
- Lump or swelling in either testicle
- Fluid or swelling in the scrotum, especially (though not exclusively) if it appears suddenly
Testicular cancer can also trigger gynecomastia (an excess amount of breast tissue); however, this can occur normally in adolescent boys who do not have testicular cancer.[iii]
If the cancer has spread outside the testicles, it can also cause symptoms in other parts of the body, such as the lungs, abdomen, pelvis, back or brain.
If you have noticed any of these symptoms or have risk factors associated with testicular cancer, consult your physician.