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
- Locate the testicle in the scrotal sac.
- Hold the testicle gently but firmly and roll it between your fingers. You
should feel the entire surface of the testicle.
- 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.
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
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.
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.