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Practical Prevention—Testicular Cancer Strikes Young

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Most young men aren't concerned about major health issues like cancer. Most cancers do in fact occur later in life, but testicular cancer is most common in young men.

The good news is that testicular cancer is uncommon and highly curable, especially if found early. Treatment advances have led to a much lower death rate from this cancer than in the past. There is a 95% 5-year survival rate, and a 99% survival rate for testicular cancer that is found in the earliest stages.

As with most cancers, the key to the best outcomes are awareness and early detection.

Common Risk Factors

There is no known cause for testicular cancer. It is probably a combination of genetic and environmental factors. It is more common in men between the ages of 20-44 years old. It is also more common in men who are Caucasian.

Some factors that have been linked to an increased risk of this cancer include:

  • Undescended testicle—having a testicle that has not fully descended into the scrotum, even if surgery was done to bring it down
  • Abnormal development of the testicles
  • Family history of testicular cancer
What to Look For

Testicular cancer is something that you can detect. Some doctors suggest doing regular testicular self-exams which may allow you to detect changes, even small ones. These changes may also be detected by a sexual partner. Here are some signs to be aware of:

  • A painless lump or swelling in either testicle
  • A change in the way the testicle feels
  • A scrotum that feels heavy or swollen
  • Growth of breast tissue

More advanced testicular cancer may cause other symptoms, such as lower back pain, nausea, or vomiting.

Finding It Earlier Is Better

Promptly see your doctor if you discover a lump or notice other changes in your testicles or scrotum. Early detection of any cancer increases your chance of successful treatment.

Keeping Cancer in Check

The American Cancer Society recommends that men ages 20-39 years with average risk have a physical exam every 3 years. These exams will include screening for certain cancers. If you have a high risk for testicular cancer, like a family history, you may need to do more. Take some time to discuss your risk with your doctor and find out how to protect yourself.

RESOURCES:

American Cancer Society
http://www.cancer.org

National Cancer Institute
http://www.nci.nih.gov

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

Canadian Cancer Society
http://cancer.ca

Health Canada
http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca

REFERENCES

Do I Have Testicular Cancer? American Cancer Society website. Available at: http://www.cancer.org/acs/groups/cid/documents/webcontent/003172-pdf.pdf. Updated November 5, 2013. Accessed November 12, 2014.

Seminoma. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated September 30, 2013. Accessed November 12, 2014.

Teratoma. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated September 30, 2013. Accessed November 12, 2014.

Spermatocytic seminoma. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated April 12, 2012. Accessed November 12, 2014.

Embryonal carcinoma. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated September 30, 2013. Accessed November 12, 2014.

Testicular choriocarcinoma. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated September 30, 2013. Accessed November 12, 2014.

Testicular cancer. National Cancer Institute at the National Institutes of Health website. Available at: http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/types/testicular. Accessed November 12, 2014.

Vadaparampil S, Moser R, et al., Factors associated with testicular self-examination among unaffected young men from multiple-case testicular cancer families. Hered Cancer Clin Pract. 2009;7(1):11.



Last reviewed November 2014 by Michael Woods, MD

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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