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Five testicular cancer symptoms you should know

Five testicular cancer symptoms you should know

When you think about the reproductive system you may think of women, but the health of the male reproductive system is equally important. Urologic cancer is of the three most common cancers diagnosed in men and cancer can be found in the prostate, urinary bladder, kidney or renal pelvis, and testis. Cancer in the testicles is known as testicular cancer.

What is testicular cancer?

As a quick health-class refresher, testicles are the male sex glands that make up an important part of the male reproductive system. They are located behind the penis, inside the scrotum. Testicles are responsible for producing sperm and male sex hormones.

Testicular cancer happens when cells begin to grow out of control in the testicles. Cancerous cells can form tumors and can spread to other parts of the body if left unchecked. It’s a relatively rare type of urologic cancer found in men and is usually very treatable if diagnosed early.

Who’s at risk?

Testicular cancer can affect anyone with testicles, including men, nonbinary, and transgender folks. However, certain factors can put individuals at higher risk of developing testicular cancer.

You may be at higher risk if you:

  • Are between 13 – 40 years old
  • Are white
  • Have an undescended testicle
  • Have a family history of testicular cancer
  • Are HIV positive

Young man standing in doorway, portrait

Watch out for these five symptoms

Be aware that these warning signs are often present, but not always.

Common testicular cancer symptoms include:

  1. Swelling or a heavy feeling in the scrotum
  2. Dull pain in the testicles
  3. Feeling a lump in testicles (with or without pain)
  4. Dull pain in the groin, lower abdomen, or lower back
  5. Any change in what’s normal for your testicles and body; Knowing what’s normal for you and your body is important, so that you can detect any concerning changes, which could include an odd-looking appearance or “moving” testicles

Other symptoms can include infertility and swelling of the breasts (though this is rare). In addition to the warning signs listed above, more advanced testicular cancer may cause:

  • Fatigue
  • Shortness of breath
  • Significant unexplained weight loss
  • Confusion
  • Chest pain and coughing
  • Pain in the back and abdomen

Diagnosing testicular cancer

If you or a loved one has experienced any of these warning signs or symptoms, it’s important to see your doctor right away. They can perform an exam, and run any tests deemed necessary to see if you have testicular cancer.

In order to make a diagnosis, your doctor may:

  • Perform a physical exam where they check your testicles for any swelling or lumps
  • Examine your belly, groin, and other areas of your body
  • Perform an ultrasound
  • Run blood tests

Do you know how to perform a self-exam?

If you have testicles, it’s recommended that you perform a self-exam at least once a month. A great time to self-examine is during or after bathing or showering, when the skin is most relaxed—plus, you’re already naked!

To do a self-exam for testicular cancer:

  1. Hold your penis out of the way
  2. Examine each testicle one at a time, using both hands
  3. Gently hold your testicle between your thumb and fingers, feeling for any lumps or swelling
  4. Check for any changes in size, shape, or appearance of your testicles; notice anything that isn’t normal for your body

If you feel any bumps or notice anything concerning, reach out to your doctor. They can help assist you with diagnosis and can work with you to develop a treatment plan if necessary.

If you have more questions, reach out to the University Medical Center Cancer Center. We’re always here to help. For more information, visit our Cancer Care page, or call us at 504.702.3311.