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Testicular cancer: A young man's disease

A young man runs along a trail with the sun rising behind him.

April 7, 2019—One of the first things you should know about testicular cancer: It's not common. Only about 410 American men die of the disease every year.

Another key fact is that, unlike many other cancers, testicular cancer tends to occur at younger ages. According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), the average age at diagnosis is 33. And less than 10 percent of cases occur in men older than 55.

Most testicular cancers can be discovered at an early stage, according to the ACS. Most of the time, the first symptom is a lump on one of the testicles. Other symptoms of testicular cancer can include:

  • A painless swelling on either testicle.
  • Pain, discomfort or numbness—with or without swelling—in a testicle or the scrotum.
  • A feeling of heaviness in the scrotum.
  • A change in the way a testicle feels. For example, one testicle may feel firmer than the other. Or it may grow bigger or become smaller.
  • A dull ache in the lower abdomen or groin.
  • A sudden buildup of fluid in the scrotum.
  • Breast tenderness, soreness or growth. Rarely, certain types of tumors secrete increased levels of a hormone that stimulates breast development.
  • Early puberty in boys, also caused by abnormal hormonal secretions.

In later stages, symptoms might include low-back pain, shortness of breath, a cough, chest pain, belly pain, or headaches or confusion.

There is no screening test for testicular cancer. According to the ACS, doctors often recommend that men examine their testicles monthly after reaching puberty.

Ask your doctor how to perform a self-examination, especially if you have an increased risk for testicular cancer. You have an increased risk if you had an undescended testicle or a previous tumor in one testicle, or if you have a family history of testicular cancer.

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