Begin Main Content Area

Testicular Cancer

What is testicular cancer?

Testicular cancer is the most common cancer in men ages 20 to 34 years old. It is a disease in which cancer forms in one or both testicles. The testicles are 2 egg-shaped glands inside the scrotum (a sac of loose skin that lies directly below the penis). They are the male sex glands that make testosterone and sperm.

What are the risk factors?

There are factors that raise a man's risk of getting this disease:

  • An undescended testicle. One or both testicles don't move from the abdomen to the scrotum.
  • Certain types of moles. An unusual condition that causes many spots or moles on the back, chest, abdomen and face.
  • HIV Infection. Men infected with HIV have an increased risk, especially true for men who have AIDS.
  • Carcinoma in situ (CIS). CIS is a condition in which germ cells grow into a tumor but does not yet invade normal tissues. CIS in the testicles may become cancer over a number of years and does not cause a lump or any symptoms.
  • Young age. Young men have a higher risk of getting testicular cancer. It is the most common cancer between the ages of 20 to 34, the second most common cancer between the ages of 35 to 39, and the third most common cancer between the ages of 15 to 19.
  • A personal history of testicular cancer. Men who already had testicular cancer have a higher risk of developing a tumor in the other testicle.
  • A family history of testicular cancer. Men with a family history of testicular cancer may have a higher risk of developing testicular cancer.
  • Congenital abnormalities. Men born with abnormalities of the testicles, penis, or kidney, as well as those with a hernia in the groin area, where the thigh meets the abdomen, may be at increased risk.

What are the signs of testicular cancer?

Possible signs of testicular cancer include:

  • a painless lump or swelling in either testicle
  • heaviness or aching in the abdomen or scrotum
  • pain or discomfort in a testicle or in the scrotum
  • dull ache in the lower back, abdomen, or groin

Less common symptoms may be due to excess hormones made by the cancer cells and can include:

  • breast growth, tender or swollen breasts
  • loss of sex drive
  • growth of hair on face body at a young age (before puberty)

What is the treatment for testicular cancer?

If testicular cancer is found, the treatment depends on the stage of the cancer. Three standard treatments are used:

  • Surgery. Surgery removes the testicle and some of the lymph nodes (organs that fight infection) . Tumors that have spread to other places in the body may be partly or entirely removed by surgery.
  • Radiation therapy. H igh-energy x-rays or other types of radiation kill cancer cells.
  • Chemotherapy. Drugs are used to stop the growth of cancer cells, either by killing the cells or by stopping the cells from dividing.

How do I do a self-exam for testicular cancer?

Most men find the cancer in their testicles themselves. This fast and simple exam can help you find this cancer early. Do the exam after a warm bath or shower every month. Also ask your health care provider to do a testicular exam as part of your regular check-up.

Here's how to do a self-exam of each testicle:

  1. Place your thumbs on top of your testicle. Put your index and middle fingers under the testicle.
  2. Roll the testicle between the thumbs and fingers.
  3. Feel for any lumps, about the size of a pea.
  4. If you find a lump, see your health care provider right away.