The Leading Cancer of Young Men
Testicular cancer occurs most commonly in young males between the ages of 20 to 45. In 2009 it was estimated that 8,400 men will be diagnosed with testicular cancer per year, however the survival rate is 96%.
Risks are higher amongst males who have a close relative with testicular cancer. White males are also more often diagnosed, than other races. Males with a history of late descending or undescended testicles have a higher risk of developing testicular cancer. The testicles develop inside the stomach of unborn males. The testicles then begin to descend at birth or during the first year. Late descending testicles usually develop toward the end of the first year or beginning of the second year. If the testicles do not descend by then, surgery is required to assist this process.
Testicular cancer can affect everyone, even famous athletes. In 1996 professional cyclist, Lance Armstrong, was diagnosed with testicular cancer that had metastasized to his brain and lungs. Armstrong overcame testicular cancer and has since gone on to be the only person to win the Tour de France seven consecutive years. Other athletes include Philadelphia baseball player John Kruk, who was diagnosed in 1993 and has since been able to continue playing until his retirement. Scott Hamilton, ice figure skater, was also diagnosed and treated for testicular cancer.
Painless hard swelling detected in part of one testicle is the most common symptom of testicular cancer. A pea-sized hard lump detected on the front or side of the testicles or a buildup of fluid in the scrotum may also be an indication for testicular cancer. Males with testicular cancer often notice an ache in their lower abdomen or in the affected testicle.
After a lump has been discovered, the first test done will be an ultra sound. This is used to detect tumor growth, presence, size, and solidness. If the ultra sound show an abnormality, then blood tests will be required. A sample of blood will test for high levels of serum tumor markers, a substance that is produced by cancer. A biopsy will sometimes be done, but more commonly the testicle will be completely removed when suspected for cancer. The testicle will then be removed through an incision in the groin called radical inguinal orchiectomy. The testicle will be examined to diagnose the type of cancer, and its current stage. If cancer is confirmed after the biopsy, then further tests will need to be taken. These tests include X-rays, CTscans, and MRI scans.
Testicular cancer can usually be cured even if it has spread beyond the testicle where it is detected. Treatment of testicular cancer depends on the extent to which it has spread beyond the testicle. All cases of testicular cancer involve the removal of the cancerous testicle. The cure rate for surgical procedures to remove early stages of testicular cancer is essentially 100%. Treatment for more advance cases of testicular cancer includes radiation therapy and chemotherapy. Even in more extensive cases, there has been a cure rate of 85%, using different combinations of surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy.
Cancers that are found early are the most easily treated. It is recommended for men between the ages of 15 to 55, to check for testicular cancer once a month through self examination. A good time to do this is after a warm bath or shower, when the scrotal skin is relaxed. Hold your scrotum in the palm of your hands, so that you can use the fingers and thumb on both hands to examine your testicle. Find the epididymis (the soft, tube like structure at the back of the testicle that collects and carries the sperm). Do not mistake the epididymis for an abnormal lump. Note the size and weight of the testicles. It is common to have one testicle slightly larger, or one which hangs lower than the other, but any noticeable increase in size or weight may mean something is wrong. Gently feel each testicle individually.
If you discover a lump in your testicle it is recommended that you have it examined by a physician. Cal Poly Pomona Student Health Services provides an excellent staff of physicians to assist you in testicular examinations. To make an appointment call (909) 869-4000.
Reference: American Society of Clinical Oncology on the World Wide Web. Go to http://www.cancer.net/