New Brunswick, N.J., April 1, 2022— According to data from the National Cancer Institute, the median age of a cancer diagnosis is 66 years, but certain cancers occur more commonly in young people. Testicular cancer, for example, though rare, is a cancer that primarily affects young men in the 20-39 year old range. It is also one of the most treatable and curable forms of cancer. Therefore, young men should become familiar with the symptoms related to this disease and understand how they can play a role in its detection.
Thomas L. Jang, MD, MPH, FACS, associate 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, shares more.
Testicular cancer is largely a disease of young men. Though testicular cancer can impact males of any age, it generally affects young men who are 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.
Men should understand the Basics. 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.
We need to normalize conversations about men’s health. Most men are too nervous or uncomfortable with approaching their doctors- or anyone- when abnormalities arise in their 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 can 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.
Self-examination is simple. 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.
Treatment is highly effective. Most men with testicular cancer, even those with advanced disease, can be cured with surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, 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.
The Urologic Oncology Program at New Jersey’s only NCI-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center together with RWJBarnabas Health provides highly specialized care for patients with tumors of the genitourinary (GU) tract, including testicular cancer. We work in collaboration with experts from the RWJBarnabas Health oncology service line to 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.