Health Class: Testicular Cancer

Julianna French
jfrench@css.edu

Following last week’s discussion on menstruation, our focus this week will be on reproductive problems males face. Testicular cancer affects approximately 0.4% of men and makes up 0.5% of all new cancer cases. It accounts for 0.3 deaths out of every 100,000 men, making it one of the least deadly of the cancers, according to the National Cancer Institute. However, this doesn’t make it any less serious or terrifying to be diagnosed with. Cancer of any sort is nothing to play around with, and so let’s talk about what testicular cancer is and how to perform self-examinations in order to catch it early on.

First of all, what even are testicles? They’re organs that are slightly smaller than golf balls and are located below the penis within the scrotum, a loose bag of skin. It’s here that male sex
hormones and sperm are produced. Cancer is when cells in the body began to multiply out of control forming tumors, and can make it hard for the body to perform normal functions needed to survive.When this happens in one or both testicles, it’s called testicular cancer.

There are two types of testicular cancer, according to the American Cancer Society, both with their own sub-categories: germ cell tumors and stromal tumors. Germ cell tumors are the most common and they develop in, you guessed it, germ cells – the cells that make sperm. Germ cell tumors can be broken down into two types: non-seminomas which can grow rapidly and be aggressive, and seminomas which grow more slowly. Stromal tumors develop in the tissues that produce hormones and support the testicles. Stromal tumors are more common in children than in adults. There are two types of stromal tumors: leydig cell tumors which are usually benign and can be fixed with surgery, and sertoli cell tumors which are also usually benign but can be hard to treat if they spread beyond the testicles.

According to the Urology Foundation, there are certain symptoms that may indicate you have testicular cancer and should alert your doctor. The most common symptom is a painless lump in the testicle. You may also or otherwise experience a feeling of extra weight in the scrotum, swelling of the testicle, and/or pain in the groin region. These symptoms don’t always indicate testicular cancer but can be attributed to other issues. Either way, it’s good to let your doctor know as soon as you notice a difference because whether it’s cancer or something else, early detection makes it easier to combat.

In order to notice if anything is out of whack with your testicles, you should perform self-checks after a warm shower or bath. The Cancer Research UK recommends doing the following when performing a self-check: After your warm bath or shower, hold your scrotum in the palms of your hands, using your fingers and thumbs to examine each testicle. What you want to be aware of is if there’s a change in the size of weight of one of you testicles. Keep in mind that it’s common to have one that’s slightly larger or hangs lower than the other. They should be smooth with no lumps or swellings. It’s very uncommon to have testicular cancer in both testicles, so when performing a self-check, compare the two of them.

If you do have testicular cancer, there are five standard treatment types: surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, surveillance, and high-dose chemotherapy with stem cell transplant. The earlier you’re diagnosed, the easier the cancer is to treat and the less aggressive the treatment type you will receive. Lance Armstrong’s cancer was very advanced by the time it was discovered resulting in the loss of a testicle. The cancer spread to other organs, very nearly killing him. Protect yourself and perform self-checks regularly. Class dismissed.