Testicular Cancer, Its Causes And Symptoms

Testicular cancer starts as an abnormal growth or tumour in a testis. A cancer will usually appear as a painless lump in a testis. If a man sees a doctor as soon as a lump, swelling or pain in a testis is noticed, the cancer can remain localised (remain within the testis). However, if not treated, the cancer typically spreads to other parts of the body via the blood or lymphatic system. Testicular cancer has a very good cure rate (over 95 per cent).

The Causes Of Testicular Cancer

Personal history  Men who have previously had cancer in one testicle are about 25 times more likely to develop cancer in the other testicle. ITGCN is also a risk factor.

Undescended testicles  Before birth, testicles develop inside a male baby’s abdomen. By birth, or within the first year of life, the testicles usually move down into the scrotum.

If the testicles don’t descend by themselves, doctors perform an operation to bring them down. Although this reduces the risk of developing testicular cancer, men born with undescended testicles are still about 16 times more likely to develop testicular cancer than men born with descended testicles.

Family history Sometimes gene mutations are passed on in families. A man with a father or brother who has had testicular cancer is slightly more at risk of cancer. However, family history is only a factor in a small number (about 2%) of men who are diagnosed with testicular cancer. If you are concerned about your family history of testicular cancer, you can ask your doctor for a referral to a family cancer clinic, genetic counsellor and/or a urologist, who can provide information about the most suitable screening for you and your family members.

Infertility Having difficulty conceiving a baby (infertility) is associated with ITGCN, undescended testicles and genetic abnormalities. Due to the shared risk factors with testicular cancer, infertility is also considered a risk factor for testicular cancer.

HIV and AIDS There is some evidence that men with HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) and AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome) have an increased risk of testicular cancer, although the reasons are unknown.

Some congenital defects Some men are born with an abnormality of the penis called hypospadias. This causes the urethra to open on the underside of the penis, rather than at the end. Men with this condition are about twice as likely to develop testicular cancer.

There is no known link between testicular cancer and injury to the testicles, sporting strains, hot baths, wearing tight clothes, sexual activity or having a vasectomy.

Symptoms Of Testicular Cancer

In some men, testicular cancer does not cause any noticeable symptoms. Other men may notice one or more symptoms, including:

  • A swelling or lump in the testicle, usually painless
  • A feeling of heaviness in the scrotum
  • Change in the size or shape of the testicle (for example, hardness or swelling)
  • A feeling of unevenness between the testicles
  • Aches or pan in the lower abdomen, testicle or scrotum
  • Enlargement or tenderness of the breast tissue
  • Back pain
  • Stomach aches.

Most testicular lumps are not cancer, but it is important to see your doctor if you have any of these symptoms.

A cancerous lump may be as small as a pea or much larger. In most cases, only one testicle is affected. Sometimes, testicular cancer cells spread into the lymph glands and other organs in the body (most commonly the lungs). If this happens, you may have other symptoms, such as a cough or shortness of breath. Even if testicular cancer spreads, it can usually be cured.


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