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Testicular Self Examination

Testicular cancer is a rare disease but is still one of the most common cancers among young men. The rate of the disease has increased in recent years. About one percent of all cancers are due to testicular cancer. The number of new cases each year have doubled.

It is most common in the 20 to 40 year age group. However, it can happen to men at any age. Testicular cancer has a very high chance of cure if it is detected in the early.

Testicular Cancer Risk

The risk of testicular cancer in young men is higher among men born with undescended testicles (the testicles are in the abdomen rather than the scrotum). The risk is also higher among men whose testicles do not develop normally. There is no evidence that an injury to the scrotum causes testicular cancer.

The earliest warning signs of testicular cancer usually include:

Other symptoms of testicular cancer

  • Testicular pain
  • Urinary problems
  • An abdominal mass or abdominal pain
  • Loss of weight or appetite
  • Fatigue
  • Lower-back pain
  • Tenderness in the nipples or breast enlargement
  • Very rarely, male infertility

Testicular cancer is far less common than breast cancer but it is still of concern, considering that it is the most common cancer in men aged 20 to 40 (though it can affect men of any age). It is important that men overcome their reluctance to focus on possible medical problems especially in this vital - and highly symbolic - area. "Real men don't spend a lot of time examining their genitals", or so the argument goes. That's too bad, because in about 40 percent of the victims of testicular cancer, the malignancy has spread to other parts of the body by the time it is diagnosed.

Testicular Exam

All men between the ages of 15 and 40 should check their testicles for abnormalities about once a month, and older men should continue to occasionally do so. The shower or bathtub is a good place for this because warm water relaxes both the scrotum and the man.

To test, roll each testicle between the thumb and first two fingers of each hand and look for a lump, or nodule, that feels firm but is painless when pressed. A visual exam in front of a mirror is another way to look for abnormalities, and allows you to more easily locate all of the various components that should be checked.

Some men mistakenly discount the possibility that a problem exists because their testicles don't hurt.
Tenderness, too, can indicate a problem, and so can swelling of a testicle. Neither of these symptoms should cause initial alarm, however, because there are many possible causes other than cancer.

For instance, an inguinal hernia can produce swelling in the scrotum that has nothing to do with the testicle, and infection of the tube that transmits sperm can cause tenderness (this is the most common cause of scrotal pain). The hernia can be repaired surgically if it is severe enough or causes too much discomfort, and epididymitis can be successfully treated with antibiotics. Other complications related to the testicles arise now and then and should be reported to a doctor. So should any variation in the glands, which should be smooth-surfaced and slightly spongy, and any persistent sense that things are not right down there.

Some victims of testicular cancer do have outright pain, particularly if a tumor has formed and there's bleeding. Less-common indications of the disease are back pain, weight loss, and enlarged lymph nodes and breasts. Most testicular cancers develop in the sperm-producing cells and are classified as seminomas. Seminoma's develop fast. The worst tumors can double in size in as little as three weeks, and for this reason early detection is important.

Drew Voight - Men's Health

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