Most men aren’t thinking about cancer during their 20s and 30s, when they’re establishing careers and families. However, that’s exactly the time when testicular cancer typically appears.
Testicular cancer is the most common cancer among men ages 15 to 34, with 33 being the average age for diagnosis. It is a rare but highly treatable cancer. Still, the American Cancer Society (ACS) estimates that 8,430 men were diagnosed and 380 men died of the disease last year.
“Men of all ages should watch for testicular cancer by doing self-exams and reporting changes to their doctors,” said John Boon, M.D., board-certified urologist at Houston Methodist Sugar Land Hospital. “Even if it doesn’t hurt, swelling or a lump on the testicle is cause for concern.”
Painless swelling is the main symptom of testicular cancer, seen in 75 percent of cases; but in some cases, the lump or swelling does cause pain. Additional symptoms include aching or pain in the lower abdomen or groin or a sudden build-up of fluid in the scrotum.
Looking for Changes
Before they can notice changes, men need to know the usual look and feel of their testicles. It’s normal for testicles to be different sizes or for one to hang lower than the other. And what may feel like bumps could actually be blood vessels, tissues or tubes.
Although the ACS doesn’t have a recommended schedule for self-exams, some doctors advise men to check their testicles monthly. During self-exams, feel for changes to the testicle’s size, shape and consistency. Be sure to see your physician within two weeks of noticing any suspicious changes; delaying a visit gives time for cancer to spread to other parts of the body. For localized testicular cancer, the prognosis is hopeful – the five-year survival rate is 99 percent.
“An annual checkup with your doctor is still the most important screening method,” added Boon. “Men with a family history of the disease or an undescended testicle are more likely to be diagnosed. But most men don’t have any risk factors, making awareness of testicular cancer even more important.”
In honor of Testicular Cancer Awareness Month, Houston Methodist Sugar Land Hospital will be lit up purple throughout the month of April. Learn more at houstonmethodist.org/sugarland, or visit our Facebook page at FB.com/methodistsugarland for the latest news, events and information. For an appointment with Dr. John Boon or another urologist in your area, please call 281.274.7500 for a physician referral.