How a testicle cancer check can save your life
Early detection can lead to a healthier, longer life
When it comes to health issues ‘down there’, there’s a tendency for men to ignore symptoms or concerns. But a condition as serious as testicular cancer can’t be detected or treated if men or their partners stay silent.
Testicular cancer is the second most common cancer in young men (aged 18 to 39) and it’s estimated that 928 new cases were diagnosed in Australia in 2020 alone.
That’s why it’s important for all men to know about testicular cancer and how to protect their health.
Knowing your family’s health history, symptoms and how to self-examine your testicles can lead to early detection of cancer and a healthier, longer life.
How to do a self-examination at home
It’s important to get to know the regular look and feel of your testicles and to take notice of any changes.
Check yourself after a warm bath or shower, when the skin of your scrotum is relaxed. Examine each testicle thoroughly by rolling it gently between your fingers and thumb.
Look for any lumps or bumps that are not normally there or for any changes in the size or shape of your testicles.
A healthy testicle should feel firm and smooth. If you notice any changes, lumps or swelling in your testicle, see a doctor straight away.
What are the symptoms of testicular cancer?
The most common symptom of testicular cancer is a lump or swelling in a testicle.
Less common symptoms include:
a feeling of heaviness in the scrotum
a change in the size or shape of a testicle
a feeling of unevenness
an ache or pain in the lower abdomen, testicle or scrotum
an enlargement or tenderness of the breast tissue
If you feel or notice any of these symptoms while performing your self-examination, please see a doctor.
What is a testicle cancer check and who performs it?
Your doctor can perform a testicular cancer check. They will examine your testicles and scrotum, looking for any lumps or swelling. If required, you’ll be sent for an ultrasound and may need a blood test to look for any chemicals in your blood that could indicate cancer.
If these tests don’t rule out cancer, you will usually be referred to a urologist for further tests.
But I’m only young, do I still need a testicle check?
The incidence rate for testicular cancer peaks at the 30 to 34 years age group, but it can occur in teenage boys too. That’s why younger men should be aware of the symptoms from their early teens onwards.
The most common type of testicular cancer is seminoma, which usually occurs between the ages of 25 to 45, but can occur at older ages.
Non-seminoma is the other main type. It is more common in younger men, aged in their late teens and early 20s.
Unlike most other cancers, testicular cancer does not increase in incidence as you grow older.
If you feel or notice any symptoms while performing your self-examination, please see a doctor
What causes testicular cancer?
Testicular cancer occurs when the cells in your testicles develop sudden abnormalities and grow out of control. However, the cause of the abnormal cell growth is unknown.
Some factors that may increase your risk of testicular cancer include having a father or brother who had testicular cancer and having undescended testicles – testicles that did not move down into the scrotum after you were born.
It’s a common myth that injuries can cause cancer, but there’s no known link between testicular cancer and injury to the testicles.
‘At first, I thought it was some kind of hormonal change’
Initially, Bradley noticed he was feeling lethargic and had developed a lot of pimples on his back, which he thought was unusual.
“At first, I thought it was some kind of hormonal change,” says Bradley.
When he noticed his left testicle had started increasing in size and felt “heavy and uncomfortable” he told his dad.
“He took me straight to the doctor, who did a physical examination and sent me for an ultrasound.”
The ultrasound revealed that he had testicular cancer.
“I was shocked and emotional but tried to keep calm,” says Bradley.
Bradley’s GP referred him to a urologist who advised him the testicle needed to be removed. Within 12 hours of seeing the urologist, the operation was performed.
The testicle was sent to the lab for testing and it was confirmed that Bradley had stage 1 seminoma testicular cancer.
He had two rounds of chemotherapy as a precaution to arrest any cancer spread.
“It’s been five years now and there’s been no recurrence.”
Bradley has been doing self-tests at home on his other testicle, regularly checking for any irregularities.
Fortunately, his life has returned to normal.
Do you need to see a GP for personalised advice?
We can help. Our Find a Provider service allows you to search for health professionals like GPs in your local area.
If you’re heading to your GP for a check-up, it could be a good opportunity to find out what other examinations you might be due for.
If you’re aged between 20-29, find out more with our article Health checks in your 20s.
If you’re aged between 30-39, we’ve put together a list of Health checks in your 30s.
Aged 40-49? There’s a dedicated article on The Check Up, Health checks in your 40s.
And, for the young-at-hearters (or those of us between 50-59), check out Health checks in your 50s.