November is men’s health awareness month – also known as Movember. Movember is a moustache-growing charity event that raises money and awareness for testicular cancer.
Testicular cancer, also called Malignant neoplasm of the testes, is a disease in which cancer develops in one or both of the testicles. It occurs when Germ cells (a sexual reproductive cell) experience abnormal growth. Germ cells, like stem cells, have the potential to form any cell in the body. Normally these cells lie dormant until sperm fertilizes an egg. If these cells become cancerous, they multiply, forming a mass of cells called tumours that begin to invade normal tissue. Testicular cancer can metastasize, meaning that it can spread to other parts of the body. During this time cells leave the original tumour from the testicle and migrate to other parts of the body through blood and lymph vessels, forming new tumours. Testicular cancer spreads most often to the abdomen, liver, lungs, bones and brain.
- Testicular cancer is the most common form of cancer in men 15-35 years old.
- Most testicular cancers are found by men themselves or their partner, not by their doctor.
- The lifetime risk for Testicular Cancer in men in South Africa, is 1 in 1 798, according to the 2014 National Cancer Registry.
- It only accounts for about 1% of all male cancers.
- Thanks to early detection and advanced treatments, only approximately 1 in 5000 men will die from testicular cancer.
Some risk factors that may increase chances of testicular cancer include:
- An undescended testicle – Testicles develop in the abdomen of the fetus and move down into the scrotum before birth. Approximately 3 percent of males may be born with a testicle that has failed to properly descend. This is called Cryptochordism. Testicular cancer is several times more likely to occur in males with cryptochordism, and it is more likely to develop in the undescended testicles. Testicular cancer develops in the normally descended testicle in approximately 25% of cases.
- Age – About 80% of testicular cancers occur in men under the age of 44, and more than half occur in men between 20 and 34 years old.
- Race – White men are about 5 times more likely to get testicular cancer. The reason for this difference is not known.
- Family history – Approximately 3 percent of cases of testicular cancer occur in families. Having a brother or father who has had testicular cancer may slightly increase your risk of developing the disease.
- Having a personal history of testicular cancer – Men who have been cured of cancer of one testicle, have an increased risk (about 3-4%) of getting cancer in the other testicle.
- Abnormal testicle development – Conditions that cause testicles to develop abnormally may increase your risk of testicular cancer
The signs & symptoms of testicular cancer include:
- Uncomfortable feeling in a testicle
- Presence of a painless lump on a testicle – the lump can sometimes be as small as a grain of rice and feel like hard rubber
- An enlarged or swollen testicle
- Significant shrinking of a testicle
- A change in the consistency of a testicle
- A heavy or aching feeling in the back, lower abdomen, groin, or scrotum
- Any painless lump on a testicle that does not respond promptly to antibiotic treatment
- If the cancer has already spread to the lungs, problems like shortness of breath, chest pain, or cough (even coughing up blood) may develop
- In rare cases, testicular cancer spreads to the brain and can cause headaches and confusion
You can detect testicular cancer by doing a monthly testicular self-exam. This exam is a way that you can look for signs of cancer of the testicles.
To do a self-exam, follow these simple steps:
- Do the exam after a warm shower or bath. The warmth relaxes the skin of the scrotum, making it easier to feel for anything unusual.
- Use both hands to examine each testicle. Place your index and middle fingers underneath the testicle and your thumbs on top. Roll the testicle between your thumbs and fingers. (It’s normal for testicles to be different sizes.)
- As you feel the testicle, you may notice a cord-like structure on top and in back of the testicle. This structure is called the epididymis. It stores and transports sperm. Do not confuse it with a lump.
- Feel for any lumps. Lumps can be pea-size or larger and are often painless. If you notice a lump, contact your doctor. Also check for any change in size, shape, or consistency of the testes.
After a while, you will know how your testicles feel and will be more alert to any changes.
You should also get a physical exam once a year.
Knowledge is power and can change your life drastically if you are aware of early warning signs and symptoms of testicular cancer.
Here at C Beyond Health we believe men need to be pro-active about their health. We encourage monthly testicular self-examinations, annual medical check-ups and cancer screening for early detection, as symptoms don’t always present until the cancer has spread.
You also need to lead a healthy, balanced lifestyle, cutting out lifestyle factors that increase your risk for cancer!
C Beyond Health Hemel & Aarde Village – +27 82 928 1965
C Beyond Health Eastcliff – +27 28 312 4299