Testicular cancer is the most common cancer among men aged 15 to 34 in the U.S., according to the National Cancer Institute, with roughly 9,000 men receiving a new diagnosis each year and the numbers are increasing world-wide. Because of this, medical professionals at Naval Hospital Camp Lejeune are urging men to conduct a self-check. These self-diagnoses are the key to early discovery and treatment of this common cancer.
Fortunately, testicular cancer can be treated very successfully — especially if discovered in the early stages. That is why knowing your body and reporting any changes to your doctor can save your life, according to Lt. Cmdr. Greg Chesnut, an urologist at NHCL.
In fact, 95 percent of patients with testicular cancer are alive after a five-year period, according to the Testicular Cancer Awareness Foundation; however, about half of men with do not seek treatment until the cancer has spread beyond the testicles to other locations in the body.
Who is at risk?
White males have the highest rate of testicular cancer in America; however testicular cancer is still the leading cancer among African American, Hispanic and Asian-American men, according to the NCI website. There are three risk factors for testicular cancer that all men need to be aware of. The first deals with undescended testicles in childhood.
Even if it has been surgically corrected, there is still a risk, according to American Cancer Society. Men with undescended testicle are four to six times more likely to be diagnosed with testicular cancer. The risk is also slightly increased even in the descended testicle.
If there is any family history of testicular cancer, the individual is more at risk, explained Chesnut. The highest risk is having a brother or father with testicular cancer. Additionally, if there is any personal history of testicular cancer there is increased risk of developing testicular cancer in the second testicle, so continued monitoring is important.
What to look for?
The most common sign of testicular cancer is a painless lump in the testicle, as well as scrotal heaviness, swelling and testicular pain, according to the American Society of Clinical Oncology website. Other non-cancerous conditions can present with similar symptoms, so it is important to tell a doctor immediately of these things, because there are different treatments for cancer and non-cancerous scrotal conditions.
What happens if there is concern?
A doctor will perform a physical examination and may obtain an ultrasound of the testicle to confirm diagnosis, as well as order labs for blood, according to the American Cancer Society website. Further imaging may be helpful in creating a treatment plan that best fits the individual.
Treatment options depend on the stage and type of cancer. In most patients, surgery alone is curative, according to the American Society of Clinical Oncology website. Other patients may need additional chemotherapy or radiation therapy. Additionally, since chemotherapy is likely to cause infertility, talking with the doctor about options for preserving sperm before beginning treatment is also important.
"The most important thing you can do is know your body and report any changes," said Chesnut. "We recommend monthly testicular self-examination to feel for any new changes to your body. It is easiest to do a self-exam during or immediately after a warm shower. If you notice anything abnormal, do not wait — see your doctor right away."