Testicular Cancer accounts for an estimated 1% of all male cancers globally. While those numbers may seem small, don’t let them diminish how serious this disease is. According to the National Institute of Health (NIH), there will be an estimated 9,300 new cases for Testicular Cancer in the United States alone. Out of those 9,300 cases, an estimated 400 will die from the disease. That’s why it’s important for all men to be aware of this disease, its symptoms, and treatment options.
A Quick and Easy Self-check Can Oftentimes Detect Testicular Cancer Early
One of the simplest ways to know if something strange is going on down below is to perform a quick and easy self-exam. This is best done in the shower because the warm water will cause the scrotum to relax and allow it to be easier to notice any abnormalities in the area.
First, check for any swelling or signs of water retention inside the scrotum. Next, use both hands to examine the testicles, gently, but firmly, rolling each one between thumb and index finger to determine if there is anything out of the ordinary on the surface or texture of the testicles.
Finally, try and locate the soft tissue resting against each testicle on the back and top area called the epididymis. Once located, feel for anything unusual, but if you are performing this exam for the first time it is likely that you will not know what is or is not unusual. Upon carrying out this test once or twice each month, you will become more familiar with that area and will be better able to tell if something is wrong.
During this exam, if you feel any pain, unusual sensitivity, or anything out of the ordinary, it is important to contact a doctor immediately.
Do know that it is perfectly normal for one testis to be larger than the other. It is also not unusual for one testis to hang lower than the other.
Common Symptoms of Testicular Cancer
The signs and symptoms of Testicular Cancer vary and sometimes a symptom may actually turn out to be a sign of another medical condition entirely. The first and most obvious sign of Testicular Cancer will be a newly enlarged testicle or lump in a particular area. Those experiencing any pain, unusual sensitivity, hardness, lumps, or sudden enlargements of either testicle need to see a doctor as soon as possible in order to be evaluated by a trained professional.
Other common symptoms of Testicular Cancer include:
· Swelling of the testicles or a painless lump. Detected early, a tumor may appear the size of a small marble. If undetected, it can increase in size.
- Pains or aches in the lower abdominal region or groin area.
- Unusual or sudden accumulation of fluid in the scrotum.
- Tenderness, sudden sensitivity or growth in the breasts. A sudden influx of hormones may be produced by some testicular tumors which may lead to a condition known as gynecomastia .
- Swelling in the legs and deep vein thrombosis (DVT).
- Pain in the lower back, chest pain, and shortness of breath.
Available Treatments of Testicular Cancer
There are several effective types of standard Testicular Cancer treatments ranging from surgery to chemotherapy. A Radical Inguinal Orchiectomy is the standard treatment for Testicular Cancer that needs to be performed upon discovering a tumor. During this procedure, the testicle containing the tumor, along with the spermatic cord connecting the testicle to the abdomen, is completely removed.
After a Radical Inguinal Orchiectomy is performed and depending upon the stage of the cancer, the doctor will choose one of the following treatments moving forward:
- Retroperitoneal Lymph Node Dissection (RPLND) – A doctor will likely choose this type of surgery if he or she thinks that cancer cells have spread to the lymph nodes nearby. If that is the case, the cancerous lymph nodes must be removed. This is a complex procedure which requires an incision into the abdomen so that the lymph nodes can be removed.
In some cases, the doctor may be able to perform Laparoscopic Surgery
. During this procedure, the doctor will make a very small incision and insert a thin, lighted rod called a laparoscope. This has a tiny video camera attached to the end which allows the doctor to see inside the abdomen. The doctor will then insert long surgical instruments to safely remove the cancerous lymph nodes. Laparoscopic Surgery
allows for patients to recover more quickly and they are usually on their feet soon after.
- Internal Radiation Therapy – This type of therapy requires radioactive materials to be placed into or near the cancer.
- External Radiation Therapy – This type of therapy requires a machine that is placed outside the body to send radiation toward the cancer.
Chemotherapy is a traditional cancer treatment that either kills the cancer cells or prevents them from dividing. This treatment may be taken orally or injected into a vein or muscle. Once the drugs enter the bloodstream, they have access to cancer cells throughout the body. Chemotherapy may also be placed directly into an organ or body cavity so that the drugs can directly interact with the cancer cells in those specific areas. The type of chemotherapy the doctor will suggest is determined by the type and stage of the cancer to be treated.
Testicular Cancer is a serious condition and nothing to be ashamed about. The earlier this condition is detected, the better the prognosis will be.
By Dr Charuspong Dissaranan
, Urologist, Men’s Center
, Bumrungrad International Hospital