How can I recognise testicular cancer?

A man will notice the first signs of testicular cancer himself. But by the time men go and see a doctor, unfortunately the first metastases have already formed in one third of the cases. Every man should carefully feel both testicles for thickening and hardening once a month. The best time for this check is when the scrotum is limp and soft – that is, when outside temperatures are warm, e.g. under the shower or in the bath.

Typical signs of cancer in its initial stage

  • a painless (or painful) swelling or lump in/on the testicle
  • a feeling of heaviness in the testicle
  • a light twinge in the groin

Typical signs of cancer in an advanced stage

  • enlargement of the affected testicle
  • enlarged abdominal lymph nodes
  • enlarged or painful mammary glands

Facts about testicular cancer

  • A man’s lifetime risk of developing testicular cancer is approximately 1 in 250
  • It accounts for 1% of all the cancers in men.
  • It usually affects young men (age 15 – 45) in their prime of youth. It accounts for 11 – 13% of all cancers in this age group.
  • Testicular cancer has the highest cure rates among all cancers (>90%)
  • But, like all cancers, it can recur
  • Most commonly there are two types of testicular cancers–seminomas, or slow growing cancer and non-seminomas, or fast-growing cancer
  • Prominent symptoms include pain/swelling/lumps in testicles/groin areas
  • Prominent risk factors include undescended testis (cryptorchidism), family history, mumps and inguinal hernia
  • Surgical removal of a testicle will not affect fertility. Chemotherapy, on the other hand, can harm sperm count/quality. Sperm banking may then be considered.

The survival rate is higher for men diagnosed with early-stage cancer and lower for men with later-stage cancer. For men with cancer that has not spread beyond the testicles (Stage 1), the survival rate is 99%. Approximately 68% of men are diagnosed at this stage.
For men with cancer that has spread to the lymph nodes in the back of the abdomen, called the retroperitoneal lymph nodes, the survival rate is about 96%. But this depends on the size of the lymph nodes with cancer. For men with cancer that has spread outside the testicles to areas beyond the retroperitoneal lymph nodes, the survival rate is 73%. About 11% of testicular cancer is diagnosed at this stage.
(Statistics adapted from the American Cancer Society’s publication, Cancer Facts & Figures 2017: Special Section – Rare Cancers in Adults, and the National Cancer Institute Surveillance Epidemiology and End Results (SEER) database.)