Testicular cancer is a relatively uncommon type of cancer and is unusual in that it tends to affect younger men – usually those who are between 20 and 55 years old. Although there is no definitive cause of testicular cancer, a number of risk factors have been identified, including a family history of testicular cancer, being infertile, and being born with undescended testicles. If you notice a lump or swelling in your testicles; feel a dull ache in your lower abdomen; or experience an ache or feeling of heaviness in your scrotum, this could be an indication of testicular cancer. Most lumps found in the scrotum turn out not to be cancerous, but it is always worth having yourself checked over by a doctor to be sure.

There are different types of testicular cancer, with germ cell testicular cancer being the most commonly diagnosed. The two main subtypes of germ cell testicular cancer are seminomas and non-seminomas, with the latter accounting for the majority of cases at 60%. The most significant variation between the two is in the treatment that is used, because seminomas tend to respond more effectively to radiotherapy, whereas non-seminomas tend to respond more effectively to chemotherapy. There are also less common types of cancer, including Leydig cell tumours and Sertoli cell tumours.

Since the most common symptom of testicular cancer is the presence of a lump in one of your testicles, it is worth learning how to perform a testicular self-examination, so that you are able to tell if something is there that shouldn’t be. Even if there is a good chance the lump turns out to be nothing more than a benign cyst or a swollen blood vessel, it is better to find out sooner rather than later. If you discover a lump in one of your testicles and it turns out to be cancerous, clearly the sooner you start treatment, the better the prognosis. Thus, if you feel a lump that is hard and the size of a piece of rice or a pea, usually on the front or the side of the testicle, it may be a good idea to make an appointment with your doctor.

Your doctor will then establish whether the lump is cancerous or something less serious. In most cases, the lump will turn out to be harmless, but if it turns out you do have testicular cancer, your doctor will then help you to decide on the best course of action. Firstly, your doctor will perform a physical examination to determine whether the testicular abnormality warrants further investigation. If this is the case, you will undergo a scrotal ultrasound which will enable the radiologist to establish the size of the lump and whether it is full of liquid and therefore a cyst, or solid and thus potentially cancerous. You may also require blood tests and a biopsy to be sure that you have testicular cancer.

Once all the necessary tests have been carried out, it is possible to determine what stage your cancer it is at, and this will undoubtedly influence your treatment options. Whatever type of testicular cancer you have and however advanced it is; the affected testicle will be removed in order to stop the cancer spreading further. Whether or not any further treatment is required will depend on the type of testicular cancer you have and what stage the cancer is at. If the cancer has spread to your lymph nodes you may require further surgery, whilst you may also need to have radiotherapy or chemotherapy.

Luckily, the outlook for the majority of testicular cancer patients is good. When testicular cancer has been diagnosed in the early stages, over 95% of men make a full recovery and even in advanced cases of testicular cancer, there is a high chance of being cured. If you think there is a chance you could have testicular cancer it makes sense to see a doctor, even if it turns out to be nothing serious. You may be worried about the possibility of having a testicle removed, but even if it reaches this stage, it shouldn’t interfere with your sex life or ability to father children.