The second most common cancer in young adult males is testicular cancer. Dr Joe Kosterich talks about testicular cancer, including how to spot signs of cancer, checking your testicles and looking after your testicles.
What is the second commonest cancer in males aged 18–39? We don’t often think about cancer effecting young people but it does. And the answer to the question is testicular cancer.
There are close to 700 cases of testicular cancer in Australia each year and 50% of those will be in men under the age of 35. So what all of you blokes out there need to be doing is looking after the crown jewels and hopefully not becoming another one of the statistics. The good news is, it’s not actually that difficult and it is fairly basic.
Testicular cancer will obviously form on the testes and it will present as a lump. So how do we know if something like that is forming? A little bit like in women, who need to do a breast self-examination every month, it is a good idea for males to do a testicular check roughly once a month. So how do we go about this? It’s best to done roughly once a month and possibly the best place to do it is in the shower. Now it’s not a complicated thing – it is about familiarity – so when you’re doing it once a month it is essentially just about having an examination of the testes and getting familiar with that they normally feel like.
Now obviously there are “two lumps” in the scrotum, and these are the testes, and at the top of the testes is what’s called the epididymis, which is a coil that starts the tube which runs into the body. You can get small cysts on the epididymis and these are quite harmless.
If you notice any new lumps, you should along to your doctor and get them checked out. A new lump is not the same as saying that it has to be cancerous – as we said before, cysts are quite common and they are quite harmless. Other lumps that can be found in the scrotum, or testes, are indeed hernias or hydroceles. A hernia is where you get some material from the body pushing down into the scrotum, and this harks back to how the body develops in the uterus, in fact. A hydrocele is a related condition when fluid builds up. This tends to happen more in older men, but indeed a hernia can occur at any age. A hernial lump will be noticed particularly if you cough, laugh or sneeze.
Looking after the testes is not that difficult. It’s something that people sometimes balk a little bit at and the idea of it is not something that always appeals – it’s not the sort of thing that people tend to discuss in the locker room.
Women are probably a little bit smarter than blokes. They will compare notes and talk about things that go on with their bodies; men tend to do things a little bit more in isolation. One of the reasons we don’t hear so much about testicular cancer is – surprise surprise – because men don’t tend to talk about it as much.
Now the really important reason for doing the regular checks that we spoke about, is that you won’t necessarily know that there is a lump just by symptoms. In other words, testicular cancers are not generally going to be painful. You’re not going to know they’re there unless you notice that there is a lump there, or at least not until it’s very advanced. So don’t rely on the pain as a symptom. Other things people might say may be “I’ll know I’ve got it because I might be passing blood in the urine”. Again, that is not necessarily going to happen and it could be a sign of a whole range of other things.
Unfortunately testicular cancer is something that pretty much has no symptoms in most cases and is really only going to be found by doing a regular check, which as we’ve said, is fairly simple to do. Like with most things to do with the body, a little bit of awareness goes a long, long way. Much the same way with the testes: if you do notice something new or different, if it is sore, if there’s suddenly some pain, if you do notice a lump, or really anything that’s unusual, it’s worth getting is checked.
So for some of you blokes that are feeling a bit queasy about this, here’s a tip: your health is important. It’s much better to do a check of your testes than to one day find yourself in a hospital bed that perhaps you didn’t need to be in. If you can find lumps early, they’re going to be better if you treat them early and if they turn out to be harmless, so much the better. So forget about being blokey about it, do a regular check of your testes, talk with your mates because you don’t want to lose them either, and encourage them to do the same. It’s not that difficult: it’s really worthwhile and you don’t want to become another statistic.
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