Sexual Disorders

How to Do a Testicular Self Exam

Various types of cancer exist both in the female and male populations. Testicular cancer typically occurs in men between the ages of 15 and 49.

Even though it used to be viewed as a rare type of cancer, the number of affected individuals have drastically increased in the last couple of years.

There are 9,610 new estimated cases in 2020. Luckily, the relative survival rate is 95%. Figuring out the signs and doing a regular testicular self-exam can help people recognize cancer early on. With on-time treatment, individuals can manage their testicle health. 

Here is how you can spot the signs and do a self-exam the moment you believe in having a testicle problem. 

Testicular Cancer – What Does It Mean?

The male reproductive organs can develop cancer known as testicular cancer. These organs are composed of the epididymis, testicles, and other organs. The testicle is responsible for creating hormones and sperm, typical for the male body. These are the key components of a properly functioning reproductive system. 

Testicular cancer can only appear in the testes. Reports showed that white males are more prone to developing this kind of cancer than Africans and Asians. However, cancer like this can appear in any man, regardless of race or ethnicity. 

The problem is, scientists have yet to figure out what’s causing this testicle problem. They need to study its influence to have full-proof results. There are only speculations for probable causes, such as genetic testicle issues, cryptorchidism, abnormal cell development, etc. 

But, since countless people have testicular cancer, it is essential to clarify all the signs. This will help patients identify their testicle problems. 

What Are the Obvious Testicular Cancer Signs?

The earlier the cancer is spotted, the better the chances for successful treatment. Current treatment indeed has a very high success rate. But, if you don’t detect the testicle problem on-time, you risk worsening your health state. 

To avoid neglecting each symptom, you need to have the proper knowledge to recognize them. That’s why we selected the most obvious signs for testicular cancer that are considered a red flag. 

These are the testicular symptoms you shouldn’t ignore:

  • Testicle Lump

  • Fluid Accumulation

  • Discomfort & Pain

  • Heaviness

  • Early Puberty

  • Breast Growth

Here is more detailed information about each of these testicular cancer symptoms.

Testicle Lump

The lump inside the testicle is often a clear indicator of testicular cancer. Of course, the lump could be the result of other health conditions. Keep in mind that fewer than 4% of lump cases are linked to testicular cancer. 

To be on the safe side, talk with a doctor. Cancer could appear in the form of a scrotum nodule or tumor. The testicular lump is very small in size (quite similar to a pea). But, it’s not uncommon for the painless lump to become even larger and cause some level of discomfort.

Fluid Accumulation

For most patients, the swelling in the affected testicle is caused by abnormal fluid accumulation. The swelling affects the scrotum, and it’s very easy to recognize. It will look like a palpable lump that’s forming inside the affected testicle. 

Discomfort & Pain

Testicular cancer is not always painless. Although uncommon, a 3rd of affected individuals will experience a dull pain inside the testicle. While only 10% can have acute discomfort and pain, experts explain. In cancer cases such as these, the lump becomes firmer and causes pain in the lower abdomen. This can be a clear indicator of testicular cancer.

Heaviness

The cancer cell can cause an enlarged testicle and scrotum. The more the tumor develops, the heavier the testicle becomes. So, the testicles and scrotum give off a sense of heaviness. This enlargement is very unusual. 

Note: For some people, the testicles shrink due to testicular cancer. Even though it is a rare occurrence, it can still happen. 

Early Puberty

Probably one of the most overlooked cancer symptoms is early puberty. Specific Leydig cell tumors can encourage androgen release (male sex hormone) and cause early puberty. As a result, patients start to grow facial, body, and pubic hair too early. Their voices can change and become deeper. That’s because of the unnatural androgen release, often caused by testicular cancer.  

Breast Growth

Men can develop breasts when they gain weight. This is normal and can happen to any overweight individual. However, this cancer can also cause unusual breast growth. This is not something to be taken lightly. 

For example, when a patient develops a testicular tumor, the body may start secreting high estrogen levels, which is a typical female sex hormone. Because of that, the male breasts will become soft and bigger. 

The longer the tumor remains in the body, the more it’s going to stimulate the HCG (human chorionic gonadotropin). That consistent secretion creates even bigger breasts. This very rare occurrence can have a constant impact on breast tissue. 

This is a condition known as gynecomastia and can result in shortness of breath, pain in the chest, and lower back. If a patient also has phlegm, this could be a sign of testicular cancer in the later stages. 

Any Rare Signs I Should Know About?

Everyone can experience cancer differently. That’s why there are both obvious and rare signs. If testicular cancer or tumor has spread, it can affect any area that’s around the infected spot. The cancerous cells will spread through the lymph nodes and cause:

  • Trouble breathing, coughing, and chest pain

  • Exhaustion, confusion, and headaches

  • Pain in the abdominal area and groin

  • Slightly uncomfortable lower back pain

  • Blood clots, swelling, and shortness of breath

If you experience any of these signs, contact a specialist. 

How Do I Check for Testicular Cancer?

To figure out how to check for testicular cancer, you need to do a testicular self-exam. This will create the perfect opportunity to detect cancer in its early stage. In most cases, the lump will be the primary symptom. 

You will then look for any swelling or enlargement. Follow the steps below to do a successful testicular self-examination. 

  • Step 1: Push the penis gently to the side to create a clear vision towards the testicles. 

  •  Step 2: Hold each testicle between the fingers and thumbs. Use both hands to keep it in place. Then, roll the testicle between the fingers without using any pressure or force.

  • Step 3: Feel the skin for hard nodules or lumps. Look for any swelling or change in testicle shape. 

Don’t be afraid if one of the testicles appears a bit bigger than the other. This is normal. But, if there is a drastic change in the shape or size of the normal testicle because of a tiny bump, then it could be a sign of cancer. 

Note: Don’t confuse the lumps with supporting tissues, blood vessels, or spermatic cord. The cancer lumps are usually round mass that changes the consistency of the affected tissue. 

When Is the Best Time to Check Your Testicles?

Experts suggest that men do a testicular exam every month after puberty. Particularly those who have some risk factors that might make them prone to developing this cancer (ex: germ cell tumor in the past, undescended testicle, genetic testicle problems, etc.). 

The ideal time to check the testicles would be after taking a shower or a bath. This is the time when the scrotum will be relaxed and easy to examine. 

How Does a Typical Cancer Treatment Look Like?

Testicular cancer treatment may be different for every patient. Based on the stage and type of cancer, including other factors, the doctor can suggest:

Chemo is a typical approach for treating testicular cancer, prostate cancer, breast cancer, or any type of cancer. It involves the use of medicine (pills or injections). It is a systematic therapy designed to destroy cancer cells and prevent the spread of the disease. The primary drugs are Cisplatin, Bleomycin, Vinblastine, etc.

Transmission or emission of energy, on the other hand, uses wave particles to slowly kill the remaining cancer cells. It can help slow the growth of the cells and protect the lymph nodes. 

However, almost all testicular cancers require surgical treatment. Options like radical inguinal orchiectomy (removing the affected testicle) or laparoscopic surgery (removing lymph nodes with a laparoscope) can help.

Stem cell transplant is another treatment alternative. If the cancer cells don’t respond well to typical chemo treatment, the transplant becomes necessary. The patient will receive higher chemo doses and encourage the body to create new blood cells. 

Note: Any treatment approach must be discussed with a doctor. They will determine which treatment possibility will work best for your needs. Although you might feel that you need to make a quick decision, it’s crucial to take your time and process the information before accepting any treatment. This will help you regain your confidence. 

What Kind of Expert Treats Testicle Cancer?

Cancer may require a team of experts to treat your condition. Which doctor will help manage your condition depends on the tumor marker levels and stage of cancer. Overall, you can work with a medical oncologist, radiation oncologist, and urologist. 

The medical oncologist specializes in determining the best type of treatment that will work with your condition. After a CT scan or a screening test, they will suggest chemotherapy.

The oncologist focuses on treating your condition with external beam therapy. They will focus on managing the affected cells inside the body and stopping the germ cell tumors’ progression. At the same time, the urologist will treat any related condition affecting both the reproductive and urinary system. They will do surgery to manage cell growth. 

What Happens During an Appointment?

The doctor will start with a physical exam. They will look for any swelling or lumps that may affect the testicle. You will then have to do a blood test and analyze the tumor markers. The tumor marker is a specific protein in the system that can help diagnose this condition. 

After analyzing the tumor marker levels, you will do an ultrasound, which is testicular cancer screening. The imaging test will provide a clear picture of the state of your blood flow and vas deferens. If there is a sign of testicular torsion (twisted or rotated testicle), you will have poor blood flow. 

If you are dealing with malignant seminoma tumors, you will need immediate treatment. This kind of seminoma is known to affect and spread to the nearby tissue and affect the rest of the system. So, on-time management strategies become necessary. 

Final Thoughts

This type of cancer is not as life-threatening as some other forms of tumors or illnesses. It is highly treatable with a very strong success rate. Nevertheless, you shouldn’t take it lightly. If you leave the condition untreated, it could spread to other sections of the human body and cause all sorts of problems. 

Therefore, it is essential to regularly exam your testicles to avoid such a problem. By examining the area, you preserve your fertility and acquire the medicine you need. So, make sure to act quickly if you notice a sudden, unusual change in the shape or size of your testicles. Now that you know how to examine that part of the body, you will live a healthier life. 

Sources

  1. National Cancer Institute. (2016). Cancer Stat Facts: Testicular Cancer. Retrieved from: https://seer.cancer.gov/statfacts/html/testis.html
  2. Omar Khan. (2007). Testis cancer. National Institutes of Health. Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2600126/
  3. American Cancer Society. (2018). Can Testicular Cancer Be Found Early. Retrieved from: https://www.cancer.org/cancer/testicular-cancer/detection-diagnosis-staging/detection.html
  4. Dana Farber Cancer Institute. (2020). Testicular Cancer. Retrieved from: https://www.dana-farber.org/testicular-cancer/diagnosis/

 

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