The Testicular Self-Exam (TSE) requires no more than about three minutes of your time every month and will go along way in catching the disease before it has a chance to spread. Since you may only see your doctor for a physical once a year, the TSE becomes the most vital tool in your arsenal against allowing testicular cancer to grab a foothold on you.
The ideal time to perform the TSE is either in the shower or the bathtub, when warm water has relaxed the skin and it becomes much simpler to detect the shape and texture of your scrotum’s hidden contents. By making this a regular exam, you will quickly grow accustomed to how you should feel in there and in time you will become more effective in locating trouble spots.
The Testicular Self-Exam
Step One: First, pick a testicle. Slowly roll it between your thumb and fingers, using slight pressure. You are feeling for hard, painless lumps.
Step Two: Next up, your epididymis (the comma-shaped cord behind each testicle). It is probably tender, but this is the spot where of many non-cancerous problems occur, so be thorough.
Step Three: Now, check the vas deferens (this is the tube that carries sperm up from the testes) looking for the same kind of painless lumps.
Keep in mind that early detection is the number one factor in beating this disease, so should you find anything at all amiss, do not hesitate to call your doctor.
Here’s what you’re hoping not to find:
• A small, hard lump about the size of a pea, on the front or side of the testicle.
• Testicle enlargement or an alteration in its consistency.
• A heavy feeling in the testes
• Discomfort or pain. You might feel this in one of your testicles or near the groin. Either way don’t hesitate; call your physician and tell him your symptoms, which could also include any heaviness, swelling, or lumps.
• Lymph node enlargement. Either in your neck or groin. The lymph nodes fight infection for you by producing white blood cells. When they swell you will be able to fell them; about the size of a marble, they will be very tender, even painful.
Tests, diagnosis, phases
If a self-test gave you reason to see your doctor, or he believes he found something during an exam, he will probably first order an ultrasound. Other tests may follow, such as:
• Blood & urine draws. Labs can check the function of your organs through blood and urine. For instance, one blood test looks for chemical products of testicular tumors in the blood.
• CT scans or chest x-rays. Both methods offer doctors a look into your abdomen and chest, where they can try to identify any irregularity.
Following diagnosis, the doctor needs to figure out the type of cancer it is, since this information will inform his treatment plan. For the most part, testicular cancers fall into one of two categories:
• Seminomas. The tumor originates in the male’s sperm cells. Around forty percent of all testicular cancers are seminomas, and radiation therapy has proven very effective in treating these.
• Non-seminomatous. This kind of tumor is a bit more common than the first because it features a number of varieties. In fact, as many as forty percent of all testicular cancers will feature more than one kind of tumor.
Testicular cancer is understood by three chief phases:
• In Stage I, the tumor has not spread and is confined to the testes.
• In Stage II, cancer has crept into the peritoneum (abdomen, behind the stomach) and even into the lymph nodes, but it has yet to reach organs further away from the testes.
• In Stage III, cancer has reached one or more remote organs.