Testicular cancer makes headlines because it strikes young men in the prime
of life. Thanks to modern treatments, most men survive testicular cancer.
World-class cyclist Lance Armstrong not only survived testicular cancer -- he
went on to win the Tour de France seven times!
The biggest key to beating testicular cancer is detecting it early. Simple
testicular cancer self-exams can play a part in catching this disease in its
Routine cancer screening can save lives. It can also cause serious harm.
This is the "double-edged sword" of cancer screening, says Otis Webb Brawley, MD, chief medical officer at the American Cancer Society.
"Many of these cancers we treat and cure never needed to be treated and cured," Brawley says. "They are never going to kill that patient."
At the heart of the problem is our justifiable fear of cancer. The message has been drummed into us: Find cancers early while they're still curable and...
Testicular cancer usually affects men from age 20 to 39. Testicular cancer
is uncommon: about 8,250 cases were diagnosed in 2006, with about 370 deaths.
This represents only 1 percent of all cancer diagnoses. However, testicular
cancer is the most common cancer in men between the ages of 15 and 34.
Risk Factors for Testicular Cancer
Certain risk factors increase the chances of developing testicular
Cryptorchidism. In this condition, one or both testicles never fully
descend into the scrotum in childhood. The testicle remains in the abdomen or
high up in the groin, where it's more prone to developing cancer, for reasons
that are not yet understood.
Previous testicular cancer
Family history of testicular cancer
White men get testicular cancer about five times more often than
African-American men, for reasons that are not yet understood.
Testicular Cancer: Self-Exams for Screening?
Although common sense suggests routine testicular cancer self-exams should
catch it earlier, this has not been definitively established.
"There is no evidence that self-exams detect testicular cancer at an
earlier stage," says Durado Brooks, MD, director of colon and prostate
cancer prevention programs for the American Cancer Society. Large clinical
trials on this issue have simply not been done.
Self-exams also carry risks, Brooks adds, including "increased anxiety,
and the risk of undergoing unnecessary medical procedures." For these
reasons, the American Cancer Society does not recommend self-exams for
testicular cancer detection, says Brooks.
The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force also does not recommend testicular
cancer self-exams. At the same time, "we don't state that men should
not do self-exams," says Brooks.
Some experts consider testicular cancer self-exams beneficial.
"Self-exam is, I think, an important aspect of early detection,"
according to Joel Sheinfeld, MD, deputy chief of the urology service at
Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City.
Most important, experts say, is to recognize and respond to possible
symptoms of testicular cancer. "Men are usually aware there's something
wrong," says Lance Pagliaro, MD, a medical oncologist with M.D. Anderson
Cancer Center in Houston, Texas. "The problem comes in how the man reacts
Recognizing the Symptoms of Testicular Cancer
Most testicular cancers are discovered by the men who have them. The most
common symptom of testicular cancer is a painless mass (lump) in one
testicle. Other symptoms to look for:
Testicular discomfort, pain or swelling.
Any change in size or the usual "feel" of the testicle
A sensation of heaviness in the scrotum
Dull aching in the abdomen, back, or groin
If you have any of these symptoms, you should call your doctor