Testicular cancer crops up in the testicles. The testis is covered by the scrotum which is a loose bag of skin below the male reproductive organ. The function of the testicles is to produce male sex hormones such as testosterones and sperms. The number of men detected with testicular caner has increased over the decade with 7,500 to 8,000 men being diagnosed with testicular cancer each year. On an average the incidence has increased by 1.2 % per year. In comparison to other forms of cancer, testicular cancer is rare. Another saving grace is that testicular cancer can be treated even at advanced stage, when it has spread beyond the testicles. The fatality rate is low with only 1 in 5000 people dying.
Signs and Symptoms of testicular cancer
In some cases, testicular cancer is a symptomatic i.e., there are no external symptoms especially in the early stage. In other cases, the signs and symptoms include-
- One of the most common presenting symptoms is painless nodule or lump in the testicles. 90 % patients complain of this symptom. On clinical examination, it appears as a part of the testis. The testis appears enlarged.
- There is a dull ache and sense of heaviness in the lower abdomen.
- Sense of heaviness in the lower scrotum.
- Hematoma with trauma
- Enlargement of breasts (gynecomastia) due to hormonal effects of β-hCG. The breast may also be tender to touch. The β-hCG is released by the germ cell tumors.
- Pain in the lower back which occurs as a result of the tumor spreading to the lymph nodes along the back. This is a late symptom where testicular cancer has reached an advanced stage.
- Dysnea or shortness of breath and cough. The cough may result in bloody discharge if the cancer has spread to the lungs.
- There could be a painless lump in the neck as a result of metastases in the lymph nodes.
There are no specific causes of testicular cancer but certain conditions increase the chances of having this disease. They are
- Age- Younger men have higher chances of developing testicular cancer than older men. It is most common between the ages of 20 to 34 and is the second most common form of cancer to occur between the ages 35 to 39.
- Family History- Men who have a family history of testicular cancer have higher chances of developing testicular cancer.
- Personal History – Men who have undescended testis are more prone to testicular cancer than men whose testis is well descended. Also men who have a past history of testicular cancer have a higher risk of developing a tumor in the other testis.
- Race- White men have higher incidences of testicular cancer than black men. Similarly Hispanic, American Indian and Asian men have higher chances of developing testicular cancer than black men.
Among all the cancer, the prognosis of testicular cancer has been the best. Patients respond well after receiving one of the several treatments either single or in combination. It is advised that men have regular self-examination to catch this cancer at an early stage.