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There are a number of great initiatives that shine a spotlight on men’s health. These programs are important because they encourage men to take a serious look at their health, both physical and mental, and be aware of changes. And, seek help right away if anything has changed.
For a disease like testicular cancer, it’s especially important. It is the most common cancer in young Canadian men aged 15-35, but when caught and treated early the average survival rate is 97%, according to the Canadian Cancer Society. That’s why it’s important to be aware of your health and talk to your health care practitioner about any questions or concerns. The rate of men diagnosed with testicular cancer has doubled in the last 50 years, so knowing your risk factors and seeking early treatment is key.
Testicular cancer starts as an abnormal growth or tumour that develops in the cells of one or both of the testicles. These cells can change and no longer grow or behave normally, leading to benign or cancerous tumours. There are several types of testicular cancer, but the most common is a germ cell tumour.
An estimated 1,200 Canadian men will be diagnosed with testicular cancer in Canada in 2022. An estimated 35 will die.
Well-documented risk factors for this disease include:
For other possible risk factors, please visit the Canadian Cancer Society.
First, it’s important to find out what’s normal for you. Find a warm environment and roll your testicles between your thumb and fingers to check for lumps or swelling. They should be smooth, firm, and comfortable to touch. It’s normal if one testicle is slightly bigger than the other, or if one hangs lower than the other.
The following are signs of abnormalities:
Most lumps and bumps on your testicles are not cancer, but testicular cancer is a highly treatable cancer and can often be cured, if diagnosed early. If something doesn’t feel right, talk to your doctor.
If your doctor determines there is an abnormality, he or she may send you for a medical imaging exam. An ultrasound is the best and quickest way to see testicular masses and in most cases the diagnosis is pretty straightforward. For more information on the preparation and procedure for this scan, please visit the scrotum ultrasound exam page.
After an ultrasound has confirmed a diagnosis, a pelvic computed tomography (CT) scan is often requested to check for any metastatic lesions, most commonly in the lymph nodes. After treatment, repeated CT scans may again be requested, along with blood tests to check for certain hormones, to examine the response to treatment.
Healthwise Staff (2021) “Testicular Examination and Testicular Self-Examination.” www.myhealth.alberta.ca. Accessed November 1, 2021.
Moreno, C. C. (2015) “Testicular Tumors: What Radiologists Need to Know – Differential Diagnosis, Staging, and Management.” RadioGraphics, 35 (2): 400-415. Accessed November 1, 2021.