What Is Usually the First Sign of Testicular Cancer?

Reviewed on 11/4/2020

What Is Testicular Cancer?

A painless lump or swelling in the testes is usually the first sign of testicular cancer.
A painless lump or swelling in the testes is usually the first sign of testicular cancer.

Testicular cancer is a type of cancer that occurs when cells in the testicles, male reproductive glands located in the scrotum, become abnormal and grow out of control. 

Testicular cancer is the most common cancer in young men but it is also one of the most curable. More than 95% of men diagnosed with testicular cancer survive.

What Are Symptoms of Testicular Cancer?

Symptoms of testicular cancer include:

  • A painless lump or swelling in the scrotum (usually the first sign)
  • Pain is the first sign in about 10% of men
  • A dull ache or heavy sensation in the lower abdomen, or around the anus or scrotum
  • Breast enlargement or soreness (rare)
  • Early puberty in boys: signs include deepening voice and growth of facial and body hair

Symptoms of advanced testicular cancer include:

What Causes Testicular Cancer?

The cause of most testicular cancers is unknown but genetic changes may play a role. 

Risk factors for developing testicular cancer include:

  • Undescended testicle (cryptorchidism)
  • Family history of testicular cancer
  • Personal history of testicular cancer in the other testicle
  • HIV infection
  • Carcinoma in situ of the testicle
  • Age
    • About half of testicular cancers occur in men between the ages of 20 and 34, though it can occur at any age
  • Race/ethnicity
    • White men develop testicular cancer about 4 to 5 times more often than Black and Asian-American men
  • Being tall

How Is Testicular Cancer Diagnosed?

If a man finds a lump in his testicle, he should see a doctor as soon as possible.

If testicular cancer is suspected, several tests may be ordered, such as:

  • Testicular ultrasound
  • Surgical removal of the testicle (orchiectomy) 
  • This is the only way to confirm the diagnosis of testicular cancer 

In order to determine the stage of the cancer and whether it has spread beyond the testicle, tests may include: 

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What Is the Treatment for Testicular Cancer?

Treatment for testicular cancer may involve one or more of the following: 

  • Surgery to remove the affected testicle (radical inguinal orchiectomy)
    • An artificial (prosthetic) testicle may be implanted to preserve normal appearance
  • Lymph node removal 
  • Chemotherapy
  • Radiation therapy 

What Are Complications of Testicular Cancer?

Complications of testicular cancer depend on the severity of the disease and the type of treatment and may include: 

  • Fertility issues 
  • Chemotherapy side effects, including long-term complications 
    • Kidney damage
    • Damage to nerves, causing pain in the arms and feet or hearing loss
    • Damage to blood vessels in the heart, potentially increasing the risk of cardiovascular disease
    • Lung scarring
  • Development of a new cancer that develops in the blood or blood-forming organs (leukemia), lungs, colon, pancreas, bladder, stomach, or other organ systems
  • Decreased or absent semen with ejaculation

What Is the Life Expectancy for Testicular Cancer?

The prognosis for testicular cancer is generally good. More than 95% of men diagnosed with testicular cancer survive.

Life expectancy for testicular cancer is often expressed in 5-year survival rates, that is, how many people will be alive 5 years after diagnosis. 

Testicular cancer 5-year survival rates:

  • Localized (no sign the cancer has spread outside the testicles): 99%
  • Regional (cancer has spread outside the testicles to nearby structures or lymph nodes): 96%
  • Distant (cancer has spread to distant parts of the body, such as the lung, liver, or distant lymph nodes): 73%

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Reviewed on 11/4/2020
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