One of the biggest health concerns affecting young Australian men is testicular cancer which, although rare overall, is the second most common cancer in Australian men aged 18-39. Luckily, in most cases the outcome is positive, with a 95% chance of survival, and a five year survival rate close to 98%. But even though these numbers are encouraging, the rate of men diagnosed with testicular cancer has grown by more than 50% over the past 30 years. That’s why you need to know how to spot the signs.
What is testicular cancer?
Testicular cancer starts as an abnormal growth or tumour that develops in one or both testicles. There are actually several types of testicular cancer, but the most common is seminoma, which usually occurs in men aged 25 – 50. The other main type is non-seminoma, which is more common in younger men, usually in their 30s.
Key signs and symptoms
There’s no routine screening for testicular cancer so it’s up to you to learn about the key signs and symptoms that may warrant a visit to the doctor. It’s also important to familiarise yourself with the normal look and feel of your testicles and to touch them semi-regularly to monitor any changes.
In some men, testicular cancer does not cause any noticeable symptoms, whilst others may notice one or more symptoms. Just like a variety of round fruits, these symptoms can take on differing shapes and sizes. Here are the key ones to take note of:
- A painless swelling or lump in the testicle – this could be as small as a grape or much larger.
2. A feeling of heaviness in the scrotum – this may result in one testicle feeling much firmer than the other.
3. A change in the size or shape of the testicle. It may grow smaller or larger.
4. A feeling of unevenness between the two testicles.
Other less common symptoms include pains in the lower abdomen or back; enlargement or tenderness of the breast tissue; and stomach aches.
It’s worth knowing that most testicular lumps do not result in cancer diagnosis. Nonetheless, it’s important to see your doctor if you have any of these symptoms.
How to know if you’re at risk
Testicular cancer can affect anyone, and the causes are still unknown. According to Cancer Council Australia you’re considered more at risk if:
- You had undescended testes at birth.
- You have a family history of testicular cancer (having a father or brother with testicular cancer).
Despite common myths, there’s no known link between testicular cancer and injury to the testicles, sporting strains, hot baths or wearing tight clothes. Next time you get a painful tackle on the field, don’t fear for your nuts (at least not long-term).
Get into the habit of checking your testes
As with many types of illness, the best way to treat testicular cancer is to detect it as early as possible. It’s one of the most curable cancers if found early. Here are some tips on how to check your testicles and incorporate this into your regular routine:
- Get steamy: Examine your testicles after a warm bath or shower, when the scrotal skin is relaxed
- Give yourself a massage: Roll one testicle between your thumb and fingers to get to know what’s normal.
- Pay attention to both: Repeat this rolling technique on the other testicle.
- Keep it regular: Make sure to do this check at least once a month.
- Be proactive: If you notice any of the above signs or symptoms, don’t panic but do see a doctor.
So don’t be shy about being a little more hands-on with your testes. This simple habit may have a significant impact on your health, for the better.
Read about other habits you can establish to optimise your long and short-term health here.