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Testicular Cancer: Self-Exams at Home

Testicular Cancer: Delay Can Be Dangerous

Many men delay seeking a doctor's evaluation after first noticing the symptoms of testicular cancer.

"There's often a significant lag time, sometimes a very long time, between the first symptoms and when men come in," says Brooks.

"And that's sad," says Pagliaro, because "their chance of cure is not as good as it could be."

In one study, most men with a delayed diagnosis of testicular cancer gave one of several reasons for the delay:

  • They were unaware of the symptoms of testicular cancer;
  • They were afraid that their testicular swelling was due to a sexually transmitted infection, or
  • They were too embarrassed to seek medical attention.

"These are often teenagers or young men with plenty of other things going on in their lives," adds Pagliaro. "For us, it's about educating them about the possibility [of testicular cancer] and the need to see a doctor immediately" if symptoms are present, he adds.

Testicular Cancer: How to Perform a Testicular Self-Exam

Perform the exam after taking a warm shower, so the scrotal skin is more relaxed.

  1. Locate the testicle in the scrotal sac.
  2. Hold the testicle gently but firmly and roll it between your fingers. You should feel the entire surface of the testicle.
  3. Examine one testicle, then the other.

No official guidelines suggest how frequently you should perform testicular cancer self-exams, although some physicians recommend once a month.

If you do feel something abnormal on a testicular cancer self-exam, don't wait--let your doctor know!

Testicular Cancer: Diagnosis

Simple tests at a physician's office can quickly and accurately determine if testicular cancer is likely.

Testicular Ultrasound

Doctors frequently perform this test for any abnormal symptoms in the testicle. Ultrasound allows a view inside the scrotum and testicles. Testicular cancer usually looks different (more solid) than other causes of testicular swelling.

Blood Tests: AFP, hCG, LDH

Most testicular cancers release chemicals at abnormal levels into the bloodstream. These tumor markers include:

Elevated levels of these chemicals suggest, but don't prove, the presence of testicular cancer. Also, the absence of elevated levels of these hormones in a patient with a testicular mass does not rule out the presence of a tumor. The pattern of elevation, when present, can help in determining what kind of testicular cancer might be there. Tumor marker levels should fall during treatment, documenting response to therapy.

Biopsy

A biopsy is the only way to reach a definitive testicular cancer diagnosis. In a biopsy, a surgeon removes tissue and a pathologist examines it under a microscope. This usually requires removal of the entire testicle (orchiectomy). Orchiectomy is done because taking only a small tissue sample could spread testicular cancer elsewhere.

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