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Understanding the risks and symptoms of testicular cancer

Jul 18, 2012, 8:19 a.m.

Although the vast majority of testicular cancer incidents occur in men between the ages of 15 and 35, being out of this age group doesn't mean you're in the clear. For this reason, it's important to educate yourself on the risks and symptoms of testicular cancer so that you can know what actions to take.

Signs and Symptoms

These are the five most common testicular cancer signs:

  1. Pain or discomfort. This can also include a feeling of "heaviness" that hasn't been there before.
  2. An enlargement in size of one or both testicles.
  3. Swelling of the testicles, or the presence of a lump.
  4. A consistent, dull ache in your lower abdomen or in your lower back.
  5. The development of gynecomastia, which is an enlargement of the male breast.

If you experience any of these symptoms, it's important to have a full examination by your doctor. In some cases, you might experience these symptoms as a part of conditions other than testicular cancer, so don't diagnose yourself -- let the doctor do that. After all, that's what you pay them for.

Tests

One of the most common tests performed by your doctor to spot testicular cancer signs is a direct physical examination of the scrotum and testicles. Aside from this test, there are additional ways that your doctor may choose to test you.

  1. Performing blood tests that look for certain indicators.
  2. A CT scan of your abdomen and your pelvic area.
  3. An ultrasound of your scrotum.
  4. A chest x-ray, which is used to determine if any cancer has spread. When testicular cancer spreads, it usually spreads to the chest and lungs first. Your doctor may want to run a chest x-ray to help rule out the spread of cancer.

Risk Factors

There are some risks associated with the possible development of testicular cancer. Unfortunately, there's not much you can do to avoid these risk factors as they're purely genetic and doctors have yet to determine any outside influences that can bring it about.

  1. A history of testicular cancer in your family.
  2. The abnormal development of your testicles, including having undescended testicles.
  3. Your racial makeup. For some reason that's unknown, white males are more likely to develop testicular cancer than African-American or Asian males.

Although there are some people who have propagated the myth that getting a vasectomy can increase your likelihood of getting testicular cancer, there's no factual evidence to back this up.

Treatment

The great news is that testicular cancer has a high curability rate. If you are diagnosed with testicular cancer, depending on the type of tumor you have and how far developed it is, treatment will vary. The three most common forms of treatment are surgical, radiation, and chemotherapy.

  1. Surgical removal of the cancerous testicle and the lymph nodes near it may be prescribed by your doctor.
  2. Radiation therapy typically comes after surgical removal, where the cancerous area of your body is given high doses of x-rays to prevent the cancer from recurring.
  3. Chemotherapy involves the use of drugs to wipe out the cancer cells in your body and further improve your chances of a full recovery.

Educating yourself on the risks and symptoms of testicular cancer can save your life, especially if it's caught early enough. Therefore it's important that you regularly take stock of your health by paying attention to your body and giving yourself regular self-administered exams, searching for abnormal lumps.

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