Signs and Symptoms of Testicular Cancer

doctor talking to older man in office after testicular cancer symptoms

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Testicular cancer is a type of cancer that begins in the male reproductive system. The testicles, also known as the testes, are two organs that make up the scrotum that hangs behind the penis. The testicles produce hormones including testosterone, as well as sperm that can fertilize a female egg. 

Testicular cancer is not common. Each year there are about 9,190 new cases in the United States. It affects 1 in every 250 people with testicles. Testicular cancer is usually diagnosed between the ages of 20 and 34. Common symptoms of testicular cancer include a lump or swelling in the testicle, lower abdominal pain, and breast development or soreness. 

Fortunately, most cases of testicular cancer are curable. Recognizing the symptoms as early as possible leads to quicker diagnosis and treatment. 

Early Symptoms

The most common symptom of testicular cancer is a lump or swelling in one of the testicles. You may notice that one testicle looks and feels bigger than the other. The swollen area is usually painless but some testicular tumors can cause pain.

Other early symptoms of testicular cancer may include:

  • A feeling of heaviness in the lower abdomen
  • Lower abdominal aching
  • Breast growth and tenderness 
  • Early puberty in children 

It’s important to note that many symptoms of testicular cancer can be caused by something else. Many benign conditions cause the same symptoms, so noticing swelling in your scrotum does not mean that you definitely have cancer. See your healthcare provider if you develop any symptoms associated with testicular cancer. They may refer you to an oncologist—a medical doctor who specializes in cancer screening and treatment.

Progressive Symptoms

As testicular cancer grows and spreads (metastasizes) to other areas of the body, you may notice additional symptoms. Some people do not experience any symptoms of testicular cancer. If your cancer has begun to spread beyond the testicles, it is possible to experience:

  • Low back pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain 
  • Cough 
  • Abdominal pain
  • Headaches 
  • Confusion 

Symptoms of advanced testicular cancer vary and depend on which areas of the body are affected. For example, if cancer spreads to the lungs, it is possible to experience chest pain and shortness of breath. If cancer spreads to the brain, confusion may occur. 

It is critical to see your healthcare provider any time you notice a lump in your testicle. It’s estimated that about 75% of people with a testicular lump or swelling have testicular cancer. However, most lumps and swelling in the scrotum outside of the testicle are not cancerous. See your provider to determine the next steps. 

Symptoms in Children

Testicular cancer is not common, especially in children. However, when it occurs, younger people are the most likely to experience it. The average age to be diagnosed with testicular cancer is 33. About 6% of testicular cancer cases occur in children and adolescents. 

The most common symptom of testicular cancer in children is a lump or swelling in the testicle. Your child may also describe a feeling of heaviness or achiness in their testicle. 

Another symptom of childhood testicular cancer is early puberty. Children with this type of cancer experience an increase in hormone production that leads to changes such as a deeper voice and facial or body hair. 

If you notice that your child seems to be going through puberty earlier than their peers, talk with their healthcare provider. 

Symptoms in Men/Women

Testicular cancer affects people with testicles. If you were not born with testicles, you are not at risk of developing testicular cancer. 

When to See a Healthcare Provider 

Testicular cancer is very treatable and can be cured when caught early. For this reason, it is crucial to see your healthcare provider as soon as you notice any symptoms of this type of cancer. The most common symptom is a lump or swelling in the testicle. 

It is common for people to ignore a new lump and avoid seeking treatment. Don’t wait to talk with your healthcare provider. Most lumps in the scrotum (outside of the testicles) have a benign (non-cancerous) cause that can be easily treated. 

It is especially important to see your provider if you develop additional symptoms of testicular cancer including lower abdominal pain, a feeling of heaviness in the scrotum, or breast tissue growth. 

A Quick Review 

Testicular cancer is a type of cancer that begins in the testicles, two small organs that are part of the male reproductive system. The testicles produce hormones like testosterone, as well as sperm.

Testicular cancer is not common and is most likely to affect people between the ages of 20 and 34. While rare, it is possible for children and adolescents to develop testicular cancer.

The most common symptom of testicular cancer is a lump or swelling in the testicle. Other possible symptoms include lower abdominal pain, heaviness in the scrotum, and breast tissue development. Fortunately, testicular cancer can be successfully treated, and remission is possible. See your healthcare provider as soon as you notice any symptoms of testicular cancer. 

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Do testicular cancer symptoms come and go?

    Many people with testicular cancer do not develop symptoms in the early stages. Once symptoms develop, such as a lump in the testicle, they stay constant and eventually start to worsen. 

  • Does testicular cancer spread fast?

    Testicular cancer is considered treatable. It does not tend to spread quickly. The earlier testicular cancer is diagnosed, the faster treatment can begin, and the more successful it should be. 

  • Is testicular cancer fatal?

    Testicular cancer is usually not fatal, especially when caught early. A person’s lifetime risk of dying from testicular cancer is 1 in 5,000. The five-year survival rate for testicular cancer is 95%.

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  2. American Cancer Society. Facts about testicular cancer.

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  5. Urology Care Foundation. Testicular cancer: Symptoms, diagnosis & treatment.

  6. National Cancer Institute. Childhood testicular cancer treatment.

  7. American Cancer Society. Testicular cancer survival rates.

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