Men rarely worry about the health of their genitalia unless they experience a problem. Often, these problems occur in older men. However, young males need to pay attention to this part of their body for a very important reason.
Fewer than one percent of the population will ever hear the words, “you have testicular cancer.” However, for those individuals that do, the words strike terror in their hearts. When this cancer goes undetected, patients face disastrous consequences. No male is immune, as gold medalist Scott Hamilton and Black Eyed Peas band member Taboo have both fought this battle.
This cancer typically appears in men under the age of 40, with one in every 250 men contracting this disease. In fact, the diagnosis comes when the man is 33, on average. Most men at this stage in their lives don’t worry about becoming seriously ill and neglect the basic steps they can take to detect problems early. Every man must know how to do a self-exam, what signs to look for, and what type of treatment they face when receiving this diagnosis. The following guide provides this information and more.
Certain things put a man more at risk of this cancer. Any person with a family history of this type of cancer needs to be checked regularly. Men with one or both undescended testicles remain more at risk, as do individuals who have Klinefelter syndrome. This syndrome develops when a man has two or more X chromosomes. They lead to low testosterone levels in the body, along with other symptoms.
Performing a Self-Exam
When cells in the testes reproduce quicker than normal, a malignant mass forms. Men can feel this mass when doing a monthly self-exam in the shower. They will feel a hard lump or nodule that wasn’t there the prior month when they did the exam. This lump or swelling tends to be painless and might be the size of a pea or marble. However, some lumps and nodules grow much larger.
Additional Symptoms to Watch For
Some men never feel hard lumps or nodules when doing the self-exam. Other symptoms alert them to a potential problem, such as a change in the size of the testicles or pain in one or both. Pressure in the groin, stomach, or lower back indicates they should seek medical attention to determine the cause.
If fluid suddenly builds up in the scrotum, make an appointment with our doctor right away. The same holds if you experience any shortness of breath or bloody phlegm or sputum. These could be signs cancer has spread. At times, the testicular tumor releases hormones in the body that cause the breasts to grow or become tender, a condition known as gynecomastia. Males need to see their doctor if they notice a change in their breasts.
Some men learn they have testis cancer when one or both legs swell or they become short of breath because of a blood clot. This blood clot, known as deep venous thrombosis, occurs in a large vein in the body. If it appears in an artery in the lung, doctors refer to it as a pulmonary embolism, and the patient finds they are short of breath.
Other Conditions with Similar Symptoms
Men should not panic if they have one or more of the symptoms listed above. This cancer that affects males remains uncommon, so they could be dealing with a completely different problem. When you visit a urologist, they determine what the cause is and how best to treat it. The following serve as some conditions other than cancer that have similar symptoms.
Doctors refer to cysts that develop in the epididymis as spermatoceles. The epididymis carries sperm away from the testicle. When blood cells from the testicle become enlarged, the doctor refers to this as a varicocele, while a hydrocele develops when there is a buildup of fluid in the membrane that surrounds the testicle. Some men develop a hernia or opening in the abdomen wall, and this can lead to symptoms similar to those seen with cancer of the testes.
Men who experience pain in or around the testicles may have an infection known as orchitis, which develops in the testicles. When the epididymis becomes infected, doctors refer to this as epididymitis and will prescribe antibiotics. If they don’t clear the infection up, the doctor prescribes additional tests. An injury could lead to pain in the testicles, and they may become twisted, which leads to pain.
Any changes in the testicle should result in a visit to the doctor. They ask about the symptoms, how long the symptoms have been occurring, and how often they happen. This information helps them develop a diagnosis and treatment plan.
Testing for Cancer
Doctors use a range of methods to diagnose or rule out cancer. They begin with a physical exam, checking the testicles and lymph nodes throughout the body. In addition, they examine the breasts and legs. If the physical exam doesn’t provide the information needed to diagnose the problem, the doctor may order an ultrasound or blood tests.
The ultrasound provides a picture of the internal organs to look for tumors while blood tests check for tumor markers. Cancers make different markers, so the doctor will look for an elevated alpha-fetoprotein level or beta-human chorionic gonadotropin level. The elevated levels also provide clues as to which type of tumor they may find.
At this time, they look at the lactate dehydrogenase level to determine which chemotherapy will be most effective if they are treating metastatic non-seminoma, a type of cancer. However, the level of this substance doesn’t help them find cancer. Finally, doctors may measure placental alkaline phosphatase, although most do not.
When the doctor suspects the patient has cancer, they recommend surgery to learn more about what type of cancer the patient has and how best to treat it. Additional tests will probably be needed to determine the best course of treatment.
Testicular cancer treatments typically involve surgery. During this procedure, a surgeon removes the mass. The mass then undergoes an examination to determine if a watch-and-wait approach can be used or if chemotherapy and radiation are necessary. If the surgeon detects any potentially cancerous lymph nodes during the procedure, they remove these as well.
The risk of dying from this cancer remains very small. Only one male out of every 5,000 diagnosed with this disease succumbs to it. Do the self-exams, as early treatment remains the best option. You have everything to live for at this young age, so don’t neglect this important step in maintaining your health.
About Atlantic Urology Clinics:
Atlantic Urology Clinics provides cutting-edge urologic care with the help of doctors educated and trained at top medical schools and teaching hospitals. The doctors combine exceptional skills and proficiency when carrying out advanced surgical techniques. Patients find they have everything they need in one facility that serves the Horry, Georgetown, Brunswick, and Marion counties, as well as the surrounding areas.