Being Well

Why Testicular Cancer Screenings Are Imperative at Any Age

Most cases of testicular cancer can be found in the early stages. That's why it's important to do routine checks and to talk to your doctor about anything unusual.

The National Cancer Institute estimates that there were 8,430 new cases of testicular cancer in 2015. You may feel if you’re young, however, that worrying about this is for an older generation. But, cancer in the testicles is one that commonly happens in young men and it’s important to get screened. Preventative screenings can keep you on top of your health from a young age. As the American Cancer Society points out, most cancer in the testicles can be found in the early stages, making it easier to treat.

As the American Cancer Society also explains, more than 90 percent of testicular cancer begins from a testicular cell known as germ cells, the cells that make sperm. For men ages 20 to 39, germ cell tumors are the most common cancer they can get, according to a report published in Seminars in Oncology. Out of these tumors, there are two varieties: seminomas and nonseminomas. Seminomas grow slowly and usually happen in men between the ages of 25 to 45. Men in their late teens to early 30s are most prone to getting nonseminoma tumors, and as the U.S. National Library of Medicine says, it’s the more common type.

What Are Your Screening Options?

There are no recommended blood tests or imaging studies to screen for it. Screening consists of the testicular exam by your physician at your general wellness exam and self-examinations at home. The Testicular Cancer Society recommends monthly self-exams which you can do by examining each testicle with both hands and gently rolling each testicle between your fingers to feel for any irregularities on the surface. If you feel something unusual, report it to your doctor right away.

What Are Your Next Steps If Diagnosed?

As with all cancer diagnoses, it can be a scary time if you are diagnosed. Fortunately, if it’s caught early, it’s curable. The typical treatment involves removal of the cancerous testicle with surgery. If your cancer has not spread to other parts of your body, then surgery is generally successful. If it has spread, you may need chemotherapy or radiation in addition to surgery.

What Are the Success Rates?

Cancer researchers and physicians often measure treatment success by what percentage of patients are still alive five years after therapy. The success depends on if the cancer is only in the testicle, if it has spread locally or if you have cancer that has spread to other parts of your body. For those with cancer located only in the testicle, the American Cancer Society reports that the five year survival rate is 99 percent. If it has spread nearby, that rate drops slightly to 96 percent, and if it has spread to distant regions, it drops to 73 percent. Thus, the earlier you catch it, the higher your chance of beating the disease.

Testicular cancer can affect men at any age. Fortunately, if you’re diagnosed, treatment options offer high rates of success. If you are a male in your 20s, you should get in the habit of performing a self-exam every few months, and follow up with your doctor immediately if you feel anything abnormal.

Learn more about testicular cancer and what the symptoms are.

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Larry Istrail
Larry Istrail