The good news, gentlemen, is that testicular cancer is a rare type of cancer. Around 7,500 cases are reported annually in the US (that figure constitutes as rare, it really does).
The bad news is that it is the most common type of cancer for men between ages 15 to 35, and for some reason, for the last thirty years it has been on the rise.
But there is more good news: When caught early testicular cancer is very treatable. And it isn’t as hard as many other cancers to catch, simply because of the easy examination access to the testes (see the self-testing method later in this article).
You don’t need to wait for a health care professional to check them, you can do that yourself, and you should do it regularly, so you can catch it before it has a chance to metastasize—spread throughout the body.
Testes and Tumors
Perched below the penis in the scrotum, male glands known as the testicles begin to make testosterone following puberty. This famous male hormone is the chief contributor to what we regard as male traits: a lower voice, along with body and facial hair. The testicles also have another other job—to produce sperm capable of fertilizing a woman’s egg.
When testicular cancer strikes a man, a malignant (i.e. cancerous, and potentially deadly, as opposed to benign) tumor has begun to grow within the testes. Generally, around ninety-five percent of the cancerous masses that originate in the testes will be of the malignant variety. As such, they can metastasize throughout the body into other organ systems. For this clear reason, early detection could mean the difference between life and death.
Who’s at Risk?
In short, if you have testes, it is at least possible for you to develop the disease, although it tends to be much more common in men ages 15 to 35. However, science has identified some risk factors for testicular cancer:
• Cryptochordism (undescended testicle): Men with an undescended testicle—whether it descended prior to the age of six or never did descend in the first place—run a risk that is about fourteen percent higher than without cryptochordism.
• Atrophied testicle : In this condition, typically brought about by a viral infection or the mumps, a testicle wastes away, possibly shrinking in size as well. • A Family history of testicular cancer: If a father or brother had the disease, that puts you into a higher risk category for getting it as well.
• Diethylstilbestrol exposure: Beginning in 1946, and continuing into the 1970s, pregnant women with a history of miscarriage were treated with diethylstilbestrol (DES), and researchers have found a connection between it and vaginal cancer in the daughters of women who were exposed to the drug when pregnant. The question is whether a similar connection can be found in sons (call the DES Cancer Network at 800-337-6384, for more information).