What is Testicular Cancer?
Testicular cancer typically develops in one or both testicles in men. It is a treatable and usually curable form of cancer. It generally affects those between 15 and 40 years of age.
Facts: - According to the Illinois State Cancer Registry, in 2008, about 350 new cases of testicular cancer will be diagnosed in Illinois. About 20 Illinoisans are expected to die of testicular cancer in 2008.
What are the Causes and Risk Factors of Testicular Cancer?
The cause of testicular cancer is largely unknown but scientists have found a few risk factors. However, most men with testicular cancer do not have any of the known risk factors, which include:
Cryptorchidism: The main risk factor for testicular cancer is a condition called cryptorchidism, or undescended testicle(s). In a fetus, the testicles normally develop inside the abdomen and descend into the scrotum before birth.
Family history: A family history of testicular cancer increases the risk for developing it.
Multiple atypical nevi: Two recent studies by the American Cancer Society have shown that an unusual condition where multiple pigmented spots or moles are found particularly on the back, chest, abdomen and face, is associated with an increased risk of developing testicular cancer.
HIV infection: Some studies have shown men infected with the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), particularly those with Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS), are at increased risk.
Cancer of the other testicle: A history of testicular cancer is another risk factor. Men who have been cured of cancer in one testicle have an increased risk of eventually developing cancer in the other testicle.
Age: Most testicular cancers occur between the ages of 15 and 40. However, this cancer can affect males of any age, including infants and elderly men.
Race and ethnicity: The risk of testicular cancer among white men is about five to 10 times that of African-American men and more than twice that of Asian-American men. The risk for Hispanics is between that of Asians and non-Hispanic whites.
Body size: A recent study from Sweden identified body size as a risk factor. The highest risk was seen in tall, slim men. The health benefits of being slim, however, outweigh any concern about testicular cancer.
What are the Symptoms of Testicular Cancer?
Common symptoms of testicular cancer include:
- A lump on a testicle that is often painless but slightly uncomfortable or testicular enlargement or swelling.
- A sensation of heaviness or aching in the lower abdomen or scrotum.
- Breast tenderness and/or breast growth. Certain types of testicular tumors secrete high levels of a hormone called human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG), which stimulates breast development.
- Lower back pain (a frequent symptom of later-stage testicular cancer).
- Shortness of breath, chest pain, cough or bloody sputum (if the cancer has spread to the lungs and is well advanced).
Some types may produce androgens (male sex hormones) or estrogens (female sex hormones). Estrogen-producing tumors in men may cause breast growth and/or loss of sexual desire. Androgen-producing tumors may not cause any specific symptoms in men, but in boys they can cause growth of facial and body hair at an abnormally early age.
In some cases the testicular cancer is found during medical testing for other conditions. Sometimes imaging tests done to find the cause of infertility can uncover a small testicular cancer.
A number of noncancerous conditions, such as testicle injury, can produce symptoms similar to those of testicular cancer. It is important to report any of these symptoms to a doctor.
How to Prevent Testicular Cancer
- It is not currently possible to prevent most cases of this disease; monthly self-exams are the best way to find a testicular tumor early.
- Cryptorchidism should be checked and corrected promptly.