Raising awareness of testicular cancer among men

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Raising awareness of testicular cancer among men

There are many health awareness campaigns held throughout the year – a month for breast cancer, colorectal cancer, and melanoma skin, to name a few. All are important for delivering a message of hope and to raise money for continued research for these diseases.

Testicular cancer also has a month dedicated to bringing and advancing awareness of this disease. The entire month of April is recognized as the official Testicular Cancer Awareness Month.  By setting aside an entire month, this significantly enhances raising awareness and education to men about this disease and reminding men on the importance of performing testicular self-exams.

Facts on testicular cancer

Testicular cancer is not very common and few people know of someone who has had it.  In fact, according to the American Cancer Society, only about 9,560 men will be diagnosed with it in 2019 in the U.S. and out of that number, 410 men are estimated to die from it.  This figures out to be about one in every 250 men developing cancer within the testes at some point during their lifetime. 

However, the incidence rate of testicular cancer has been increasing in the United States and many other countries for several decades. 

It is considered to be a cancer of young men as they are at the greatest risk of developing testicular cancer.  Most cases occur in men ages 15-39 and it is the most common cancer among men ages 20-34.  The average age at the time of diagnosis of testicular is about 33. Only nine percent of men with testicular cancer are older than 50.

What do the testicles do?

The testicles or testes are located inside the scrotum and are the most essential organ of the male reproductive system.  They are the glands where sperm and testosterone are produced.  Testicular cancer develops if abnormal cells begin to grow in the testes uncontrollably.

Risk factors for testicular cancer

A risk factor is anything that changes your chance of getting a disease such as cancer and different cancer will have different risk factors.  Research has found few risk factors that make someone more likely to develop testicular cancer.  However, below is listed are possible factors that may place a man at a greater risk of developing testicular cancer:

·      White men who are 5-10 times more likely to get it than African-American men.

·      Asian-American, Latino, and Native American men also have higher rates than African-American men.

·      Cryptorchidism – a condition of having a testicle that did not descend into the scrotum

·      Family history of testicular cancer

·      HIV

·      Klinfelter’s syndrome – a genetic condition causing underdeveloped testicles

·      A previous diagnosis of testicular cancer

Signs and symptoms of testicular cancer

The most common symptom of this cancer is a usually a painless lump or swelling in a testicle with some being as small as a pea.  A swelling will feel more like an irregular thickening on a testicle.  Additional symptoms might include:

·      An ache or pain in the back, groin, lower abdomen, or scrotum

·      A change in the usual size or feel of the testicle

·      A sensation of heaviness in the scrotum  or bloating in the lower abdomen

Anytime a man notices any sort of change within the testicles, he needs to contact his primary care physician right away.  The sooner this cancer is caught, the better the chance of survival and a full recovery. 

Diagnosing and treating testicular cancer

Diagnosis of testicular cancer consists of a physician examining the testicles with their hands along with blood tests measuring certain proteins and enzymes released by cancerous tumors and ultrasound scans using sound waves to produce an image of internal tissues to help locate and determine the size of the tumor.

If the tumor is cancerous either chemotherapy and/or radiation are often used following surgery.  If caught early, the chance of survival is very good.   A man should discuss with his physician if there will be any ramifications from treatment that will affect a man’s fertility.

The only way to be sure if a tumor is cancerous is by surgery with usually the entire testicle removed and tested.  The remaining testicle – nearly 99 percent of men have cancer in only one testicle - has the ability to produce enough hormones to maintain a man’s masculinity, beard, sex drive, voice, etc.

Just like women are encouraged to do monthly self-breast exams, all men should do a testicular self-exam on a regular basis becoming familiar with what feels and looks normal.