New Brunswick, N.J., April 1, 2023 — Testicular cancer is largely a disease of young men. Though testicular cancer can impact males of any age, it generally affects men in their 20s and 30s. The average age at the time of diagnosis of testicular cancer is about 33 according to the American Cancer Society. Thomas L. Jang, MD, MPH, FACS, chief of urologic oncology and director of the Testicular Cancer Program at Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey and associate professor of surgery and program director for the Urology Residency Program at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, addresses some common concerns about testicular cancer in young men.
You may not understand your risk for the disease. Testicular cancer begins when healthy cells in a testicle change and grow out of control, forming a tumor. Men whose testicles did not descend into the scrotum at birth, a condition known as cryptorchidism, are at an increased risk for testicular cancer. Bringing the testicle down into the scrotum with surgery doesn’t decrease the risk of developing testicular cancer but it does make it easier to examine the testicle and find any abnormalities early. Other established risk factors include a family history or personal history of testicular cancer.
You may be too nervous or uncomfortable with speaking to your doctor - or anyone - when abnormalities arise in your testicles. Many men may feel their masculinity being threatened by both the diagnosis and any necessary treatments including the removal of a testicle. Not speaking up or waiting and hoping that a testicular mass will simply go away on its own is dangerous and may lead to cancer affecting other parts of the body. Talking about men’s health issues can help normalize the fact that all men need to check and be familiar with their bodies and report any changes to their doctor.
You may have sexual dysfunction and reproductive concerns. Most men with testicular cancer, even those with advanced disease, can be cured with surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or a combination of these treatments. Surveillance may be appropriate for some men after the diagnosis has been established. After treatment, the majority of men return back to a normal healthy life with unaffected sexual function and fertility being preserved in most.
You can play a role in the detection of testicular cancer. Warning signs of testicular cancer may include a hard lump or enlargement of the testicle; a dull ache in the groin or lower abdomen; and pain, swelling or discomfort in the testicles. Self-examination is simple and takes only a few minutes. Know what your testicles feel like normally. To self-exam, an individual should hold each testicle separately between the thumbs and forefingers of both hands and roll it gently, feeling for hard lumps or rounded masses, as well as changes in shape or size.
The Urologic Oncology Program at New Jersey’s only NCI-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center and leading cancer program together with RWJBarnabas Health provides highly specialized care for patients with tumors of the genitourinary (GU) tract, including testicular cancer. We offer a tailored treatment plan for patients, which may include clinical trials. For more information and resources on testicular cancer, visit: https://cinj.org/education/testicular-cancer.