Men ages 20 to 40 are most likely to develop testicular cancer
Most testicular cancers are discovered by men, not by their doctors
Even when it becomes fairly advanced, it’s highly treatable
There’s a reason they call it Testicular Cancer Awareness month: Awareness is the best weapon against the disease.
“Most testicular cancers are discovered by men, not by their doctors,” said Dr. John Godwin, a medical oncologist at the Providence Cancer Center Oncology and Hematology Care Clinic. “They find a lump or bump or have symptoms.”
Part of awareness is for men to recognize changes in their testicles. While self-examinations are not directly recommended by all health authorities, Dr. Godwin said, “there’s no harm in doing a self-exam.”
This is especially true for men aged roughly 20 to 40, because they are the group most likely to develop testicular cancer.
What to look for
Additional symptoms that may indicate testicular cancer include:
- A dull ache in the testicles
- A pain in the lower back
- Growth in the breasts
“Not all testicular pain indicates cancer," said Dr. Godwin. There are infections that can cause pain. Pain can be a dull, uncomfortable ache, or more severe, similar to a blow to the groin. However, he said, “pain that doesn’t go away should get your attention.”
When that is the case, men should see their health care provider.
- Have an undescended testicle
- Have a personal or family history of testicular cancer
- Have an HIV infection
In addition, the risk of developing testicular cancer is four to five times higher for white men than it is for African-American or Asian men.
Statistics, background on testicular cancer
Fortunately, testicular cancer is a fairly rare disease. According to the National Cancer Institute, part of the National Institutes of Health, about 5.7 out of every 100,000 men develop testicular cancer each year. It accounts for about 0.5 percent of all new cancer cases.
Even when it becomes fairly advanced, it’s highly treatable. And more than 95 percent of the men who develop testicular cancer survive five years or longer.
Yet, testicular disease remains a mysterious disease. Researchers aren’t sure what causes it, nor can they explain with certainty why there has been an uptick in the number of cases over the last decade.
Anxiety about the diagnosis
When a man is diagnosed with cancer of the testicles, treatments may include chemotherapy, radiation and removal of the cancerous testicle.
Dr. Godwin says one of the first questions he gets after explaining the treatments is whether the man can be a father. “They’ll say ‘I haven’t had a chance to have a family,’” he said.
For those men, he said, he recommends sperm banking as a precursor to treatment.
“In most cases, we can take care of this with sperm banking," he said.
Many who are diagnosed with testicular cancer are initially fearful.
“They ask, ‘Am I going to get through this?’” said Dr. Godwin, who answers by explaining that the disease is highly treatable and has high survival rates. Then, he said, “It begins to sink in: ‘I can fight this.’”
Because the disease is rare, Dr. Godwin encourages men with concerns to find a physician experienced with diagnosing and treating testicular cancer.
OR: Providence Cancer Institute, Portland and surrounding communities
MT: Montana Cancer Center at Providence St. Patrick Hospital and Providence St. Joseph Medical Center
This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your health care professional's instructions.