A Patient Journey for Testicular Health
Testicular cancer is a significant concern for many men – it is the most common cancer among men aged between 25 and 49 in the UK . Incidence rates of testicular cancer have also been rising in recent decades , so it is increasingly important to be aware of the disease, to regularly self-examine for it, and to visit a doctor if you think you might have testicular cancer.
Testicular cancer is not clearly linked to any specific risk factors , so men’s focus should be on detection rather than prevention. Men should check their testicles regularly for lumps and other irregularities – signs of testicular cancer can include (in addition to lumps) general swelling or enlargement of a testicle, increased firmness, pain in the testicle or scrotum, and unusual differences between the two testicles. If you notice any of these signs, you should see a doctor – though you should not panic, since very few testicular lumps – around 4% – are cancerous. Treatments are far more effective when started early.
When you go to see your doctor, he or she will ask you about your symptoms including the nature of any physical lumps or irregularities you have noticed, as well as whether you are experiencing any other symptoms. You will also be asked about your medical history, and any history of related conditions in your family. Your doctor will usually also perform a physical examination of your testicles, which can include a test where a torch or light is held against any lumps in order to establish whether light passes through them, since cancerous lumps are usually opaque.
IIf your doctor suspects that you may have cancerous abnormalities in your testicles, you will usually be referred to a specialist. Specialists have a number of tests at their disposal, including ultrasound scans, blood tests, and biopsies. If is cancer is found, further tests of the whole body may be necessary to establish whether the cancer has spread – these include MRI and CT scans.
An orchidectomy – the removal of the affected testicle – is one treatment option where cancer is found . Alternatively, hormone treatments , which deprive the cancer of the testosterone it requires to grow, are available. Where the cancer is caught before it spreads, this may be all the treatment required, aside from close inspection; a single course of chemotherapy may also be required. Where the cancer has spread, however, a number courses of chemotherapy will usually be necessary. Radiotherapy and other further treatments may be necessary where the cancer has spread, especially where it has spread to the lymph nodes.
The survival rates of men with testicular cancer, it should be noted, are very high: 98% of men diagnosed with the condition survive for 10 or more years, and there are only 63 deaths each year from prostate cancer in the UK.
talkhealth recommends a number of charities that can provide support for men suffering from testicular cancer – Orchid deals with all forms of male cancer; and the Men’s Health Forum deals with men’s health concerns more generally.
You can also find support in our testicular problems forum.