The Most Common Cancer for Young Men
The most common cancer for men between the ages of 15 and 34 is testicular cancer. Thankfully, testicular cancer is simple to treat when it’s detected early. Know your risk and how you can detect testicular cancer.
What is testicular cancer?
Testicular cancer begins as a lump on one or both testicles. If it advances, it can spread to other parts of the body and the lymph nodes. While there are different types of testicular cancer, the most common type is called germ cell tumor.
Who is at risk?
It is possible for any man to be diagnosed with testicular cancer. However, there are factors that put certain men at a higher risk than others. Men between the ages of 15 and 40 are at the highest risk. Also, men who have a family history of testicular cancer, who have had testicular cancer before, or who have undescended testes at birth face an increased risk. Caucasian and Native American men have a greater chance of being diagnosed with testicular cancer than men of other racial backgrounds.
How can I test for testicular cancer?
Test yourself for testicular cancer often– you can even test every day. It is important to know how your testicles normally feel so that if something changes, you can tell your doctor. A healthy testicle is smooth and firm. It is also normal for one testicle to be a bit larger than the other and for the left testicle to hang lower than the right. Follow these steps to check yourself:
- Test yourself in the shower or another location that is warm and private.
- Roll one testicle between your thumb and forefinger. Check for lumps, swelling, pain, and a change of shape or size. Also pay attention to how heavy your testicles feel. If you notice that they feel heavier than usual, tell your doctor.
- Repeat the previous steps on your second testicle.
More advanced testicular cancer can cause symptoms including low back pain, shortness of breath, coughing, stomach ache, confusion, and headaches. Sometimes testicular cancer has no symptoms and isn’t found until men happen to undergo tests for other issues, such as infertility.
How is testicular cancer treated?
If testicular cancer is detected early, it is very treatable and often totally curable. Doctors usually recommend removing the affected testicle with a surgery called orchiectomy. In some cases, testicular cancer impacts the lymph nodes near the back of the abdomen and those have to be removed as well. If cancer cells have spread to other parts of the body, chemotherapy or radiotherapy might be prescribed.
Chemotherapy for testicular cancer uses drugs to treat the cancer once it has spread outside the testicles. It may also be used to reduce the likelihood of the cancer coming back. Radiation, which utilizes a beam of high-energy waves or particles, targets cancer in the lymph nodes, killing or slowing the growth of the cancer cells. In the majority of cases, especially when the cancer has been detected early, physicians can treat it without the use of chemotherapy and radiation.
If you notice any changes or feel any pain in or around your testicles, discuss this with your Baylor St. Luke's Medical Group primary care physician, urologist, or oncologist right away. Most bumps don’t turn out to be testicular cancer, but it’s always best to make your health a priority and talk with your doctor.