Did you know that April is Testicular Cancer Awareness Month? There are nearly 8,500 men diagnosed with testicular cancer each year in the United States, and this public health awareness event is needed to help raise awareness for this disease. In fact, you might be surprised to hear that testicular cancer is the most common form of cancer that is diagnosed in men between the ages of 15 and 35. Fortunately, this is also one of the most curable forms of cancer when it is detected at an early stage. (Do you remember that Lance Armstrong was diagnosed with testicular cancer?)
According to the American Cancer Society, all men should receive a testicular exam as a part of their routine physical check-up or if they are going in for a cancer-related examination. During this exam, a physician will need to feel the genital organs (including the testicles, scrotum, and penis) in order to check them for any swelling, shrinking, lumps, or other visual signals that something could be amiss. This testicular examination can help identify the source of swelling, pain, inflammation, lumps, or congenital masses that could be an indication of testicular cancer.
What is Testicular Cancer?
Testicular cancer is a deadly disease which can develop in either one or both of the testicles. This cancer is the result of germ cells which undergo some abnormal growth. Just like stem cells, these germ cells (a sexual reproductive cell) are able to become any other cell in the body. In most cases, these cells will remain dormant until sperm fertilizes an egg. When germ cells become cancerous, they start to multiply out of control, creating the mass of cells we know as a tumor. As this grows, the tumor may begin to invade normal healthy tissue.
This disease can metastasize, which means that the cancer can spread to other portions of the body. When this occurs, cells will split away from the original tumor in the testicles and move to separate areas of the body where they can start to produce totally new tumors. In most cases, testicular cancer will spread to the patient’s liver, abdomen, lungs, brain, and bones. This disease can spread quickly and is quite deadly when left untreated.
Even though getting clinical testicular exams is important, most cases of testicular cancer have been discovered by the patients themselves, either by self-examination or by accident. There are no clinical studies which have specifically looked into the effectiveness of testicular self-examination, but it is still very important for all men to become familiar with the symptoms of testicular cancer (just as women should be familiar with the natural shape and feel of their breasts). Possible indications of testicular cancer can include:
- Swelling or a painless lump on the testicle
- Change in size or texture of the testicle
- Discomfort or pain in the testicle or scrotum
- Sensation of heaviness in the scrotum
- Spontaneous collection of fluid in the scrotum
- Dull ache in the lower groin, back, or abdomen
Remember Your Testes This April!
The rate of testicular cancer has been on the rise in recent years, and it can affect any male at any age. This is why it is important to take notice during Testicular Cancer Awareness Month. As we mentioned earlier, the highest rate of diagnosis for this disease is in males between the ages of 15 and 35! Last year, there were more than 360 deaths caused by this disease. So pleas take the time to think about your testes this April, because these are deaths that can be avoided.