QOTM June 2021 - How Can I Check Myself for (Testicular) Cancer?
Posted by Candice Simpson on
The following statistics will be using gendered language because most testicular cancer statistics come from cases of cisgender males. However, anyone who has testicles can use the self-check recommendations below. If you are worried about your health or have further questions, please talk to your doctor. We are not doctors and thus cannot give medical advice.
Testicular cancer is no joke, and can be deadly if not treated early. About 1 out of every 250 men and boys will be diagnosed with testicular cancer during their lifetime. This specific cancer is one of the most commonly diagnosed in young adult men, particularly between ages 30 to 39.
In 2020 there were an estimated 3100 new cases in the 30- to 39-year age group and a total of 3000 in the 20- to 29-age group in the US. For 2021 9470 cases in total are expected to be diagnosed.
The average age for a person to be diagnosed is 33, but cancer can show up at any age. Testicular cancer is rare before puberty, becomes more common afterwards, and then becomes rarer again in people 56 years or older.
The 5-year survival rate for testicular cancer is 95%--which means 95 people out of 100 will live at least 5 years after their diagnosis. The survival rate is 99% if the cancer is detected early (in stage 1). That means this is one of the more beatable and survivable cancers.
Since testicular cancer is one of the most beatable cancers if detected early, checking yourself for testicular cancer is vitally important.
Monthly Shower Self-Exam
You should check yourself at least once per month. The shower is the best place to perform a self-exam, since the steam relaxes your scrotum and makes it easier to feel around.
- Check one testicle at a time
- Gently roll testicles between your fingers
- Check for hard lumps or rounded bumps
- Check for painful areas
- Check for change in size
- Feel the spermatic cords at the back side of testicles
If you detect a lump
If you detect a lump, you should seek out a urologist as soon as possible. A urologist is a specialized physician who deals with problems of the male urinary tract and reproductive organs. The urologist may recommend one of the following courses of actions or tests to confirm a diagnosis:
- Ultrasound – the ultrasound helps doctors create an image of what is going on inside a human body. This can be used to look at the testicles and confirm whether the lumps are solid or fluid filled and if they are on the inside or outside of the testicle
- Blood Test – a blood test can confirm so called “tumor markers” in the blood and will show if cancer is present. There are other medical reasons for these to be elevated, but it will help the doctor make a more accurate diagnosis.
- Chemotherapy – if there is a testicular cancer present, the urologist may recommend chemotherapy to treat the it.
- Orchiectomy – the removal of a testicle. If your urologist has reason to believe the lump is actually cancerous, this type of surgery might be recommended. The removed testicle will then be further examined in a lab to determine the exact type of cancer.
If you perform this check regularly you will become familiar with the way your body should feel. That will make it easier to identify anything that is out of the ordinary for you. What is normal for your body might not be for someone else’s and vice versa.
Even if all of your self-exams go well and you feel like nothing is wrong, it is recommended that you see a urologist at age 40. They will be able to give you a baseline screening that way if you have any issues later in life, you will have that test to compare to.