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Testicular cancer is the most common kind of cancer in young men, however experts say few men know much about it.
According to Testicular Cancer Canada, men have a 1 out of 250 chance of developing testicular cancer. If it's caught and treated early, 98 per cent of testicular cancer cases are curable. That’s why doctors say it’s imperative more men become aware of this disease and what symptoms to watch out for.
What is testicular cancer?
Testicular cancer occurs when cancerous cells develop in the tissues of the testicle, a male sex gland that produces sperm and testosterone. The cancer can impact both testicles, but it's rare.
There are two primary types of testicular cancer: seminoma and non-seminoma.
Seminoma develops from young germ cells, grows slowly, and stays relatively immobile, according to the Cleveland Clinic. Non-seminoma, however, is a more aggressive tumour that arises from more mature germ cells, which are cells in the testicles and develop into sperm. There are also testicular cancers that are a combination of both seminoma and non-seminoma.
What are the warning signs and symptoms of testicular cancer?
The most common symptom of testicular cancer is a painless lump or swelling of the testicle.
Other signs and symptoms include:
A dull ache in the abdomen or groin
A sudden collection of fluid in the scrotum
Pain or discomfort in a testicle or the scrotum
Enlargement or tenderness of the breast tissue
Who is at risk for testicular cancer?
Testicular cancer is the most common cancer in men who are between the ages of 20 to 35.
Dr. Lucia Nappi, a medical oncologist at the BC Cancer Agency, says the reason this form of cancer affects men at such a young age is most likely because the tumour forms very early in a man’s life during the development of the testicles.
“Cancers like lung cancer or colorectal cancer, the causes of these cancers are mainly environmental, for example smoking can cause lung cancer, this takes years [to develop] since the person started to smoke,” she explains.
Risk factors of testicular cancer include family history, having an undescended testicle, being Caucasian, and having had the cancer before.
Should you get screened for testicular cancer?
“It can be done once a month usually we recommend to do so when the person is taking a shower so that the scrotal skin is relaxed and it’s easier to have access [to the testicle],” Nappi tells Yahoo Canada.
The Canadian Cancer Society (CCS) recommends that by 15-years-old, all men should know how their testicles normally look and feel and they should contact their doctor as soon as they notice any changes.
Is there a cure for testicular cancer?
According to Nappi, if testicular cancer is diagnosed early and is confined to one testicle the survival rate is close to 100 per cent.
“Testicular cancer is one of the very few successes in medical oncology in terms of cures,” she says. “It is highly curable with chemotherapy, even when it’s discovered in later stages, so even when they’re on metastasis we can still cure most of our patients.”
However, a delay in diagnosis can make a huge difference in the intensity of the treatment.
There are various treatment methods that doctors will select depending on how advanced the testicular cancer is. Treatment may include:
Chemotherapy if the cancer has spread beyond the testicles
Radiation therapy for men with Stage II seminoma
Surgery to remove the full testicle or part of it
Testicular cancer can impact male fertility; doctors usually recommend storing sperm in a sperm bank before cancer treatment starts.
Nappi says in her experience many young men don’t know anything about testicular cancer and says that needs to change.
“The most important message is that this cancer exists, patients like young men should be aware of this, [they] should do a self-examination,” she adds.