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What is testicular cancer?

The testicles (also called the “testes”) are part of the male reproductive system (Fig. 1). They are found in the scrotum—the pouch of skin that hangs below the penis. The testicles make testosterone and sperm.

Testicular cancer is a growth called a tumour that starts in the testicle (Fig. 2) and can sometimes spread to other parts of the body (Fig. 3). There are two main types of a testicular tumour:

  • Seminomas can grow in men at any age but are less aggressive.
  • Non-seminomas usually affect younger men and are more likely to grow and spread quickly.
Fig. 1: The testicles.
Fig. 1: The testicles.
Fig. 2: tumour in the testicle.
Fig. 2: tumour in the testicle.
Fig. 3: Metastatic spread.
Fig. 3: Metastatic spread.

Examining your testicles is easy

Examine your testicles regularly, especially if you have a risk factor for testicular cancer.

The best time to examine your testicles is right after a hot bath or shower. The scrotal skin will be relaxed, and the testicles can be felt more easily. It takes only a few minutes.

Do the exam standing:

  • Look for swelling in the scrotum.
  • Gently feel the scrotal sac to find a testicle.
  • Examine the testicles one at a time. Firmly and gently feel each testicle between the thumb and fingers of both hands over the whole surface.
  • It is normal for one testicle to be slightly larger than the other. It is also normal to feel a cord-like structure (the epididymis) on the top and back of each testicle.

If you find a lump, swelling, or other change, see you doctor. Changes are not always cancer, but if it is cancer and you catch it early, you have the best chance of cure.

Fig. 4: Self-examination of the testicle.
Fig. 4: Self-examination of the testicle.

What is my prognosis?

Your prognosis is your risk of the cancer growing and/or coming back after treatment. The type and stage of testicular cancer will help you and your doctor understand this.

Your doctor will look at:

  • Your personal and family history of testicular cancer
  • Cancer type (seminoma vs. non-seminoma)
  • Whether the cancer cells have spread to other tissues or organs (metastasis)
  • Levels of tumour markers in blood tests, especially for non-seminomas, which are aggressive

This information was last updated in March 2017

It contains general information about testicular cancer. If you have any specific questions about your individual medical situation you should consult your doctor or other professional healthcare provider.

This information was produced by the European Association of Urology (EAU) Patient Information Working Group.

  • Dr. F. Esperto – Rome, Italy
  • Dr. U. Nordström Joensen – Roskilde, Denmark

The content is in line with the EAU Guidelines on Testicular Cancer 2016.

Testicular cancer is rare. Your doctor can offer you advice and provide support with the help of European Reference Network eUROGEN

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