Testicular cancer affects the male reproductive organs, the testes, in people ages 20 to 45. However, people of any age group can get the disease. While this cancer is diagnosed in over 9,000 people a year, it is still uncommon. Only 1 out of 250 people with testes will develop testicular cancer. While this disease is rare, it’s still important to understand the causes, treatments, and risk factors to keep yourself safe and healthy. Fortunately, early detection and treatment can increase survival rates.
What Causes Testicular Cancer?
All cancers are an uncontrolled overgrowth of cells. Cancer arises when our body’s normal mechanism for regulating the growth and death of cells is interrupted. Unlike ordinary cells, cancer cells grow and divide exponentially, creating malignant masses or tumors. Testicular cancer occurs when these tumors form in testicular tissue, affecting one or both testicles.
Types of Testicular Cancer
There are two main types of testicular cancer, seminoma and non-seminoma:
- Seminoma Cancer: Slow-growing tumors often seen in people in their 40s and 50s. This type of cancer is formed from younger germ cells and accounts for approximately 30% to 40% of testicular cancers. Seminoma cell tumors make a type of tumor marker called human chorionic gonadotropin.
- Non-Seminoma Cancer: This form of testicular cancer tends to be more common and grows more rapidly than seminoma types. It has four main types: embryonal carcinoma, yolk sac carcinoma, choriocarcinoma, and teratoma. It emerges from mature germ cells.
Risk Factors and Underlying Causes of Testicular Cancer:
The precise cause of testicular cancer is hard to pinpoint. Various factors can contribute to a person with testes developing the disease. For example:
- Family and Personal History: People with family members diagnosed with testicular cancer are more likely to develop the disease. people who have been previously diagnosed with cancer in one testicle could also have an increased chance of getting cancer in the other testicle.
- Undescended Testicles: Typically, testicles descend (move into the scrotum) by the time the child is 9 months old. Undescended testicles, which have not fallen into the scrotum, indicate an elevated chance of testicular cancer.
- Race: People of all races can get testicular cancer; however, white, non-Hispanic individuals have an escalated risk over other races.
- HIV Infection: Individuals diagnosed with HIV or AIDS could have a slightly higher risk of developing testicular cancer.
It’s essential to get regular wellness checkups and talk to your doctor about family history, lifestyle habits, and other factors to understand your particular risk level before symptoms present fully.
What Are Early Testicular Cancer Symptoms?
People with testicular cancer can exhibit a wide range of signs and symptoms. Usually, however, the first major physical signs are a small lump, hardened area, and/or enlarged testicle. If you are experiencing any noticeable change in your testicles or feeling unusual soreness, tenderness, or pain, schedule an appointment with your primary care physician right away. Specific things to look out for are:
- Heavy feeling in the scrotum
- Lump or swelling in either testicle
- Pain or numbness in a testicle or scrotum
- Fluid buildup in the scrotum
- Achy feeling on the abdomen or groin
Keep in mind that these symptoms above do not conclusively indicate you or a loved one has cancer. That’s why it’s crucial to discuss all your medical concerns with your practitioner. They can decide if a testicular cancer test is necessary. Tests may include blood tests, ultrasounds, and/or physical exams.
Testicular Cancer Treatment Options
If you receive a cancer diagnosis, help is out there. Thankfully testicular cancer is a treatable disease, especially when diagnosed early. Each type of testicular cancer requires specific kinds of treatment, but the three main options are:
- Surgery to remove the testicle and affected lymph nodes.
- Chemotherapy, which has proven successful in both types of cancer.
- Radiation, which is primarily used after surgery for seminoma-type cancer
Talk to Your Doctor About Testicular Cancer
If you are concerned with your testicular health, don’t wait to have your questions addressed. At NWPC, we are here to help you by offering a wealth of services focused on men’s health. We accept patients at all our Portland locations. Contact us to schedule an in-person or telehealth appointment today!