Testicular cancer is cancer that starts in the testicles. It is most often found in young men, but older men and even children can have it. Cancer of the testicles is not common, and most men survive it. But finding it early makes it easier to treat if you do have it, which is why regular self-exams are important.
Here’s how to do a self-exam and what you’re looking for:
Warm water helps relax the skin of the scrotum, so it’s easier to feel anything unusual. That’s why an ideal time to do your exams is after bathing or showering.
Use both hands to examine each testicle. Place your index and middle fingers underneath the testicle and your thumbs on top. Roll the testicle between your thumbs and fingers. (It’s normal for testicles to be different in size.)
During the exam, you may feel a cord-like stretch of skin on top and in back of the testicle. This is the epididymis, which stores and moves sperm. It’s normal and not a tumor.
Feel for any lumps. Lumps can be the size of a pea or larger. They are often painless. If you find a lump, contact your doctor.
Also, check for any change in the size, shape or texture of the testes. Again, if you find something, contact your doctor.
If you feel something strange, don’t panic! Not all lumps or changes are cancerous. But to be on the safe side, make an appointment with your doctor.
Some common symptoms of testicular cancer include:
A lump in either testicle.
An enlarged (swollen) testicle.
A dull ache in the lower stomach area or groin.
A sudden build-up of fluid in the scrotum.
A heavy feeling in the scrotum.
If you notice any of these things, see your doctor. Most testicular cancers can be cured, even if they’ve spread.
The doctor exam
A yearly physical exam by your doctor is an important part of staying healthy. During this appointment, your doctor will ask you to describe any symptoms and review your medical history. He or she will examine your testes by feeling for lumps. You may be asked to give a blood sample.
The doctor may also do an ultrasound of the scrotum, if an abnormality is detected. This test is a painless way to let the doctor see through your body tissue. You may need other imaging tests too, if the doctor wants to check you further.
What if I have it?
If you have testicular cancer, your testicle will have to be removed. Though this may seem very scary, the good news is that you can still have sex and become a father with just one testicle. The remaining testicle will continue to make sperm and testosterone. If you don’t like the feeling or appearance of having one testicle, talk to your doctor about a prosthetic implant.
Can testicular cancer be cured?
Yes! Most testicular cancers can be cured, even if they’ve spread. Checking your testicles for lumps or other changes each month is a good way to find cancer early. Problems are always easier to treat when found promptly.
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