Unlike many forms of cancer, testicular cancer most commonly affects young men between the ages of 18 and 34, and can occur in even younger boys. The good news is, testicular cancer can be treated successfully if caught early. When detected in its early stages, testicular cancer has a five-year survival rate greater than 90 percent.
No one is quite sure exactly what causes testicular cancer. It affects the testes, the male reproductive glands where sperm is produced. They are located below the penis in a sac of skin called the scrotum.
Those at the greatest risk of developing testicular cancer are men who:
Warning signs of testicular cancer include:
Testicular cancer may have no symptoms in its early stages, so if you or your child notices any changes in the testicles, report them to a physician right away.
The best way to detect testicular cancer in its early stages is to perform a monthly testicular self-exam, or TSE. It’s simple and takes only a few minutes. Encourage your son to perform a TSE monthly. (It’s a good idea for Dad to do the same, both for his own health and to provide an example.)
Testicular cancer usually affects only one testicle. Surgery is often the first option. After removal of the cancerous testicle, follow-up treatments may include chemotherapy, radiation or both.
Testicular cancer does not affect a man’s sex life or masculinity. The remaining testicle will produce more than enough hormones for normal male function. However, the treatment of testicular cancer — surgery, chemotherapy or radiation — may affect sperm production.
A good time to examine your testes is when you are taking a shower. The warm water causes the skin of the scrotum to relax, making it easier for you to feel any changes. Soap on your hands increases your sense of touch. Begin by feeling one testicle at a time. Slowly roll it between your fingers while applying a small amount of pressure. Feel for small, painless lumps.
The second part of the TSE is the examination of the epididymis, the comma-shaped cord found behind your testes. This is where sperm is stored and transported. It is the place where most noncancerous problems are found. It may be tender when touched.
Continue examining the vas, the tube that carries sperm from your epididymis. The vas normally feels like a firm but moveable tube. After you have finished the three steps of the TSE, repeat the exam on the other side.
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