Testicular cancer is one of the rarer forms of cancer. About 740 men are diagnosed with testicular cancer each year, accounting for about 1% of all cancers in Australian men. It occurs most often in men aged 20–40 years, and the average age at diagnosis is 35. It is also the most curable of all internal cancers.
Am I at risk?
It is not known what causes testicular cancer, however, testicular cancer is more common in young men. About half of new diagnoses occur in men under 35 years. Other factors that put men at risk include:
- having an undescended or partially descended testicle or testes
- having a father or brother who has had testicular cancer
- previous personal history of testicular cancer
- hypospadias – a congenital abnormality of the penis that causes the urethra to open on the underside of the penis, rather than at the end. Men with this condition are about twice as likely to develop testicular cancer.
There is no known link between testicular cancer and injury to the testicles, sporting strains, hot baths, wearing tight clothes, sexual activity or having a vasectomy.
What are the symptoms?
In some men, testicular cancer does not cause any noticeable symptoms. Other men may notice one or more of these symptoms:
- swelling or a lump in the testicle (usually painless)
- a feeling of heaviness in the scrotum
- change in the size or shape of the testicle (e.g. hardness or swelling)
- a feeling of unevenness
- aches or pain in the lower abdomen, testicle or scrotum
- enlargement or tenderness of the breast tissue
- back pain
These symptoms don't necessarily mean you have testicular cancer. They are common to other conditions, such as cysts, which are harmless lumps. However, if you have any of these symptoms, you should have them checked by your doctor without delay.
Become familiar with the usual level of lumpiness of your testicles. A good time to examine your testicles is after a warm bath or shower. Be aware of what is normal for you and if you see or feel any changes, see your doctor. Early diagnosis and treatment can cure almost all cases of testicular cancer. Don't let embarrassment get in the way.
David’s son (age 18) has recently noticed a lump on his testicle. He has lots of questions but he’s a bit embarrassed to speak to anyone about it.