In the UK, only 1% of annual cancer diagnoses in men are testicular cancer. This form of male cancer is the 17th most common UK cancer but cases are on the increase and projected to rise further. Like many cancers, testicular cancer survival rates increase with early diagnosis, which means that it is important to understand how to check for testicular cancer and how to look for signs of testicular cancer such as groin pain and swelling. In this article we explain testicular cancer symptoms, help you understand what to look out for and discuss testicular cancer treatment.
The facts about testicular cancer
There are several different types of testicular cancer but the subtypes of germ cell testicular cancer are by far the most common. Testicular cancer can be experienced by men of all ages, including babies and the elderly, but is most common between the ages of 15 and 40. In the UK there were 2,364 new cases of testicular cancer diagnosed between 2014 and 2016, but only 57 deaths in 2016.
Common risk factors
Testicular cancer has some acknowledged risk factors. Whilst not every man in these categories is at risk, understanding your level of risk can help raise your awareness and encourage you to be even more rigorous in your checks for signs of testicular cancer. You are more likely to be diagnosed with testicular cancer if you:
- Are male (key risk factor)
- Are in the 15–49 age bracket (key risk factor)
- Are white (key risk factor)
- Are taller than average
- Have testicles that have not descended
- Have certain fertility issues
- Have brothers or a father with a diagnosis of testicular cancer
Despite these and other risk factors, testicular cancer remains a relatively rare cancer. This does not lessen however, the importance of understanding how to check for testicular cancer and paying attention to testicular cancer symptoms.
Early signs of testicular cance
As with most types of cancer, testicular cancer survival rates improve with an early diagnosis. There are some key signs of testicular cancer that should always be reported to your GP:
- Swelling or lumps in the testicles
- New or unusual differences in the testicles
- Testicular or groin pain
- Heaviness in the scrotum
Whilst some of these symptoms become apparent without self-examination, it is nonetheless important to regularly check your testicles. By getting to know what your testicles feel like, you will give yourself a far better chance of promptly noticing any changes. Testicular cancer does not usually spread but, if this does occur, other, less likely symptoms might occur; these include:
- Coughing or shortness of breath (spread to the lungs)
- Backache or abdomen pain (spread to the lymph glands)
- Lumps in the neck (spread to the lymph glands)
- Coughing or chest problems (spread via hormones)
Testicular cancer survival rates
Caught early, testicular cancer is a very treatable cancer, with 98% of men in England and Wales surviving for five years or longer. Most men with the most common testicular cancer diagnosis, germ cell cancer, are cured with treatment. Improvements in testicular cancer survival rates are being made all the time and by 2035, it is predicted that less than one death from testicular cancer will occur in every 100,000 men.
Testicular cancer treatment
If your GP suspects testicular cancer, they will recommend you to a specialist. Once diagnosis is confirmed, your options will be discussed and together you will agree a treatment plan that reflects the type and stage of your cancer, as well as your wishes.
Surgical testicular cancer treatment
Surgical removal of affected tissue, including the testicle, will be the first treatment for all types of testicular cancer. This is obviously a worry for many men but, if one testicle remains, your ability to obtain an erection and father children should not be compromised. Although this rarely occurs, men that need to have both testicles removed may want to consider sperm banking, as they will no longer be able to produce sperm after surgery.
Treating testicular cancer with chemotherapy
Following surgery for testicular cancer, your specialist may recommend a short course of chemotherapy. Because stage one testicular cancers rarely reoccur, careful monitoring might be suggested instead of chemotherapy. With stage two and three testicular cancers, treatment with multiple cycles of chemotherapy is more common. Chemotherapy may also be used in areas where testicular cancer has spread.
Radiotherapy as a testicular cancer treatment
Depending on the type and stage of your cancer, your specialist may recommend the use of radiotherapy as part of your testicular cancer treatment plan. Radiotherapy involves the use of high-energy beams and may cause side effects such as sickness, diarrhoea and sore, red skin. This soreness may not occur straight away but can be cooled and soothed through the use of R1 and R2 gels. These gels are gentle enough to be applied directly to the skin but can significantly improve your radiotherapy experience.
No diagnosis of cancer is a happy one but testicular cancer is one that can be successfully treated, especially if it is picked up early. If your treatment plan does include a course of radiotherapy treatment, consider our advanced two-step treatment with R1 Cooling Gel and R2 Soothing Lotion to help your skin heal, and remove some of your worries about testicular cancer treatment.