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So, you've spotted a lump on your testicle? Of course you're worried about testicular cancer. How do you tell the difference between testicular cancer and the many other possible causes of testicular lumps?

Have you noticed a suspicious lump on one of your testicles, or on both? Have your testicles changed in size, shape, or structure? First off — kudos to you for being observant enough to have noticed the changes! Though any man who has just notice something strange about his testicles will be worried about testicular cancer, a surprisingly large number of different conditions will cause changes to the testicles. 

Could you have testicular cancer, or is it something else? How do you tell the difference? 

Testicular Cancer Facts

At first glance, testicular cancer statistics are frightening. Testicular cancer is the most frequently occurring cancer in men aged between 15 and 35. More men in this age range will succumb to testicular cancer than women of the same ages will die of breast cancer, and the rate of testicular cancer is still on the rise. In fact, in the United States, one man is diagnosed with this cancer every single hour. 

Worrying, isn't it? The figures aren't all grim, however — one in 270 men will be diagnosed with testicular cancer over the course of their lifetime, but treatment is so successful that only approximately one in 5,000 men will die from the cancer. When it is detected early, a whopping 95 percent of all patients are still alive after five years.

Early detection is truly the key, and individual men play a huge role in gaining a timely diagnosis both by performing regular testicular self-exams and by making an appointment with a urologist or with their family doctor the moment they notice a lump. 

How Do You Perform Testicular Self-Exams?

A lump on one of the testicles is the very first symptom of testicular cancer in most cases. You can help identify such lumps by deciding to perform monthly self-exams on your testicles, ensuring that you become intimately familiar with the normal condition of your testicles and allowing you to seek medical assistance as soon as you notice changes. 

You can most successfully examine your testicles while you are having a shower or right afterwards, so that your scrotum is relaxed during the exam. First, hold your penis out of the way. Hold each individual testicle between your thumb and other fingers, systematically checking the whole testicle by rolling it around and looking for lumps. Also note any changes in the size, consistency, and shape of your testicles. 

Men who first start performing testicular self-exams my notice veins as well as the epididymis, a small tube that plays a role in the storage and maturation of sperm, that they hadn't taken note of before. In addition, every man should know that it is completely normal for one testicle to be slightly larger than the other, and that both testicles don't quite sit at the same height. In time, however, men who perform regular self-checks will become acquainted with their own testicles to the point that they know what is and isn't normal for them. 

What Are The Symptoms Of Testicular Cancer?

A lump on the testicle is the very first symptom of testicular cancer in most cases. These lumps can be so small that they would easily be missed if you were not looking for them, but they can also grow so large that they are easily spotted. The testicle can become slightly swollen and may feel heavier than before in men with testicular cancer.

Though the early stages of testicular cancer can indeed by accompanied by pain, in the testicle as well as the lower abdomen, this is not true in most cases. 

Another thing to watch out for is breast growth, or sore feelings under or near the nipple. Not all men with testicular cancer will experience this, however, some tumors release hormones that induce breast growth, either human Chorionic Gonadotropin (hCG — the same hormone detected by pregnancy tests), or estrogen. In that latter case, loss of libido can be another symptom. Some tumors also emit androgens, male hormones. These will not cause additional symptoms in post-pubescent men, however young boys with this type of tumor can display early signs of puberty. 

If testicular cancer was not detected early, and has progressed to other parts of the body, some men will experience additional symptoms. Those can include shortness of breath, a persistent cough that may include blood, and chest pain. Abdominal pain, lower back pain, and even headaches are other possible symptoms of testicular cancer that has spread. 

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