Testicular cancer is a cancer that occurs in the male reproductive system. Underneath the penis, the testicles (or testes) are found inside a sac called the scrotum, which is a loose bag of skin. The testicles are two glands, each about the size of a golf ball, that normally feel firm but slightly spongy.
The testicles have an essential role in male reproduction: they produce sperm for reproduction and male sex hormones for the development of male traits.
The exact cause of testicular cancer is not clear in most cases, but research shows that it occurs when a healthy cell in the testicle becomes changed. The altered cell grows and divides abnormally, often uncontrollably, leading to the development of a tumor or mass in the testicle.
Although it is rare compared with other types of cancer, testicular cancer the most common cancer in American males between the ages of 15 and 35 years old. It usually affects one testicle at a time.
Who is most likely to get testicular cancer?
There are certain risk factors that make a man more likely to get testicular cancer.
Testicular can occur at any age, but it most commonly affects teens and younger men between the ages of 15 and 35.
Those born with undescended testicles, or “cryptorchidism,” are at higher risk of testicular cancer. In male development, the testes form in the lower belly. Just before the male baby is born, the testicles usually drop down into the scrotum. In less than 5% of newborns, the testicles do not drop, and are left inside the abdomen. Although this is often fixed surgically, the males born with undescended testicles tend to be at higher risk of getting testicular cancer later in life. Although the majority of men with testicular cancer do not have a history of undescended testicles, many men with undescended testicles are at higher risk of testicular cancer.
Also, men that have had a history of abnormal testicle development, such as Klinefelter syndrome, are at higher risk.
Other risk factors for testicular cancer include having a family history of testicular cancer, having fertility problems (being unable to make a woman pregnant), having HIV infection, or having Down Syndrome.
What symptoms may indicate testicular cancer?
Most men with testicular cancer feel a lump or growth in one testicle. Many also experience swelling in the testicles. Some men with testicular cancer may also experience pain: 3 out of 4 men with testicular cancer say that the lump and swelling are painless, but 1 out of 4 say that they experienced pain in the area.
Other signs of testicular cancer are a feeling of heaviness in the scrotum or having pain or a dull ache in the testicle, scrotum, abdomen, or groin region. Some men also experience a sudden collection of fluid in the scrotum, enlargement or tenderness of the tissues surrounding the breasts/nipples, or back pain.
I think I might have testicular cancer. What should I do?
If you suspect you might have testicular cancer, make an appointment with your doctor right away, especially if any lumps, swelling, or pain in your groin area lasts for more than 2 weeks. Many men with signs of testicular cancer wait to go to a doctor for several months. During that time, untreated testicular cancer may spread to other parts of the body, like the lymph nodes, blood, lungs, and bones. In very rare cases, it can spread to the brain. Visiting a doctor early can help avoid the spread of the cancer.
When diagnosed early, testicular cancer is treatable in most people, is curable in many, and is rarely life-threatening. It is important to get seen by your doctor and treated early. Doctors can use physical examinations, lab tests, imaging, and biopsies to check for and diagnose testicular cancer.
If you suspect you might have testicular cancer, contact us today to schedule an appointment with the best urologist in NYC.
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