Testicular cancer is the most common cancer for men aged 15-49 in the UK[i], with cases having more than doubled in Britain since the mid-1970s[ii]. However, despite this for the vast majority of men – around 95% – testicular cancer is curable, and this rate is even higher when the cancer has been caught early. With this in mind, it is important that men to regularly check their testicles, so they can establish what’s normal for them, therefore making it easier to spot changes.
Dr Simon Chowdhury, Consultant Medical Oncologist at London Bridge Hospital, who specialises in the treatment of testicular and urological (prostate, bladder and kidney) cancers, explains, “Testicular cancer is the most common cancer of young men and yet this is the age group that probably needs the most encouragement to check their testicles regularly. Testicular Self Examination (TSE) is a simple and effective way for men to recognize the early signs and symptoms of testicular cancer and enables men to know what’s normal for them and when they may have found something that they should go and get checked.”
Dr Chowdhury continues, “Men should check their testicles at least once a month after a warm bath or shower, as the heat causes the scrotum to relax making it easier to find anything unusual. The most common symptom of testicular cancer is a lump or swelling in one testicle and although it is important to remember that most testicular lumps are not cancer, if you do find something unusual you should consult your GP.”
When carrying out self-examination Dr Chowdhury suggests the following four steps:
- Hold both testicles in the palm of your hand to compare for equal heaviness. (Note: It is quite normal for one testicle to be larger or hang down lower than the other
- Using the thumb and forefinger, roll each testicle to check for any small, hard lumps or slight enlargement or firmness of the testicle.
- If you feel comfortable, perhaps ask your partner to check your testicles, as they may be more likely to identify a problem in the future and encourage you to do something about it.
- If you find a lump or something that seems out of the ordinary for you, make an appointment to consult your GP.
Whilst a lump in the testicle is considered the most common symptom of testicular cancer, additional symptoms can include:
- Any enlargement of a testicle
- A significant loss of size in one of the testicles
- A feeling of heaviness in the scrotum
- Pain or discomfort in a testicle or in the scrotum
- Enlargement or tenderness of the pectoral region
Dr Chowdhury reiterates that whilst these signs are not exclusive of testicular cancer, “If you find anything unusual get it checked by your GP as the possibility of it being testicular cancer needs to be ruled out. Don’t delay as in rare circumstances some types of testicular cancer can progress quickly.”
[i] Cancer Research UK (2013) Testicular Cancer Key Facts. [online] Available at: http://www.cancerresearchuk.org/cancer-info/cancerstats/keyfacts/testicular-cancer/ [Accessed: 17 Apr 2013].
[ii] Cancer Research UK (2013) Testicular Cancer Key Facts. [online] Available at: http://www.cancerresearchuk.org/cancer-info/cancerstats/keyfacts/testicular-cancer/ [Accessed: 17 Apr 2013].
Blog article written by Dr Simon Chowdhury, Consultant Medical Oncologist at London Bridge Hospital