Testicular Cancer and the Importance of Annual Physicals for Early Detection

Approximately 8,000 to 10,000 men develop testicular cancer each year. They are our fathers, brothers, and friends, and about 400 of those diagnosed will lose their battle each year. While testicular cancer has a high survival rate, every single life that cancer takes is one too many. Like with every other form of cancer, early detection is critical to minimizing the evasiveness of treatment plans and maximizing cure rates. Whether you are a man or a woman who cares for the men in her life, familiarize yourself with the signs and symptoms of testicular cancer and understand the necessity of obtaining an annual physical to maximize ongoing health and wellness.

What are the Signs of Testicular Cancer?

Testicular cancer develops in the testicles—but typically only in one. Signs and symptoms may include:

  • A lump or enlargement in the testicle
  • An aching sensation in the groin or abdomen
  • Pain or discomfort in the scrotum
  • A heavy feeling in the scrotum
  • Fluid collecting in the scrotum
  • Tenderness or enlargement of the breasts
  • Back pain

Early Detection of Testicular Cancer

Testicular cancer can often be detected early before the cancer cells have metastasized or spread to other parts of the body.  Often, a man will detect a concerning, telltale lump in his scrotum and make an appointment with his doctor. At other times, however, the lump is discovered during an annual exam. Alternatively, a patient and doctor’s discussion during an annual exam regarding general questions and concerns may reveal unusual discomfort or sensations that indicate to the physician the need to test the patient for a potentially serious condition.

For this reason, most physicians recommend incorporating a testicle examination as part of male patients’ routine annual physicals. Your physician may also recommend a monthly self-exam, particularly if you are at higher risk of developing testicular cancer. Risk factors include:

  • A family history of testicular cancer
  • The presence of a previous germ cell tumor in one testicle
  • An undescended testicle

Tests to Determine Testicular Cancer

If, after a physical exam, your doctor identifies a concern that you might have testicular cancer, he or she may conduct testing to determine the presence of cancer cells definitively. Testing may include:

  • An ultrasound of the testicles
  • Blood tests that identify tumor markers
  • A biopsy in which a small piece of the tumor is removed and examined
  • Imaging tests to determine if the cancer has spread

When to See a Doctor

If you detect a lump in your testicle, especially if you have a known risk of testicular cancer, make an appointment to see your doctor promptly.  Consistent awareness and vigilance are critical to early detection and survival. If hyper-vigilance sounds overwhelming, know that you are not alone. Receiving an annual physical from a physician you trust as part of your long-term care team is a vital step in maintaining overall wellness and leading a long, healthy life.

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