Testicular malignancy or teratoma is a term used to describe a tumor of the testis, the reproductive organs in males located inside the scrotum and below the penis. They produce an essential male hormone or androgen called testosterone, and it is where the sperms required for reproduction are created. When compared to other types of body cancers, the testicular tumors are rare. However, its incidence is increasing day by day due to certain genetical, dietary and environmental factors.
According to recent statistics, testicular tumors are the most common cause of cancer in American males who have recently reached puberty (9-13 years) and adults. It is estimated that approximately 10,000 new cases of new testicular cancer are being diagnosed in the US every year and about 400 deaths result from it. Surprisingly, testicular tumors are mostly considered innocent because they grow slowly compared to other cancers and are highly treatable, even when the tumor has spread to other organs. Depending on the stage and types of testicular cancer, there are several medications, surgical as well as interventional treatment options available to treat and cure the disease. Before exploring signs and symptoms, let’s have a look at two common types of testicular cancer for a better understanding of the signs and symptoms.
Types of Testicular Cancer
Seminomas and non-seminomas are the two main types of testicular cancers. Both arise from germs cells that produce sperms.
Seminoma is one type of testicular cancer that only involves one cell type. This type constitutes about 35-45% of total testicular cancers and commonly affects a slightly older age group (men above 40 years of age).
These types of testicular cancers are more common (50-55%) and tend to grow more quickly compared to seminomas. They typically involve more than one type of cells and are further sub-categorized as;
- Yolk sac tumor
- Embryonal carcinoma
- Choriocarcinoma (rare)
Warning Signs and Symptoms of Testicular Cancer
It is important to know the early warning signs and symptoms of testicular cancer so that you can check and evaluate yourself ahead of time, and before advancing into a later stage. However, you should remember that the majority of signs and symptoms are similar to other non-cancerous testicular conditions such as testicular injury, infection, inflammation, abscesses or a collection of fluids or blood in the scrotum. For instance, inflammation of the epididymis (epididymitis) or inflammation of the testicle (known as orchitis) due to either bacterial or viral infections can cause swelling, and heaviness of the scrotum, which is also a common sign of testicular cancer. In some cases, testicular cancer does not give out detectable symptoms, especially at early stages. In these patients, their cancer is diagnosed most commonly during medical testing or screening for other conditions. For example, imaging or semen analysis studies to find the causes of infertility sometimes leads to the accidental finding of a small testicular cancer. Next, we are going to list the most common signs and symptoms of testicular cancers.
1Testicular Lump or Swelling
Swelling of the scrotum or feeling a lump in the testis is most often the first symptom of testicular cancer. As cancer grows, it increases in size and therefore appears as a lump or swelling of the scrotum. Of note, it’s normal to have one testicle slightly larger and hanging lower than the other. The swelling in testicular cancer is massive, much more noticeable than the normal enlargement and may cause pressure symptoms due to its bigger size and weight. Some testicular cancers disrupt hormonal balance in the body (increase estrogen or reduce testosterone) and secrete other chemical substances capable of changing the size, color, and consistency of testis.