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Testicular Cancer

What is Testicular Cancer?

The testicles are two egg-shaped glands suspended below the penis in the scrotum. After puberty, the testes produce the male hormone testosterone, which is responsible for many male characteristics, such as body hair and deepening of the voice. The testes also produce the sperm that fertilizes a woman's egg during reproduction.

Testicular cancer is the growth of a malignant (cancerous) tumor that originates in the testes. About 95 percent of masses in the testes are malignant, and if untreated, will grow and spread to other organs. Early detection is key to curing this disease.

Who's at Risk?

While any man--especially between the ages of 15 and 35--can develop testicular cancer, certain factors make men more vulnerable. These include:An undescended testicle (cryptochordism). If you have or have had an undescended testicle, your risk of developing testicular cancer increases by three to 14 percent. This is particularly true if the testicle descended after age six or never descended at all.
A testicle that has atrophied (wasted away or shrunk) as a result of the mumps or a viral infection.
Family history If you have a brother or other family member who has had testicular cancer, you may have an increased risk for the disease.
Exposure to diethylstilbestrol (DES) may be a risk factor for testicular cancer. From 1946 through the 1970's, DES was used to treat pregnant women who had a high risk for miscarriage. Studies have already established a link between DES and vaginal cancer in the daughters of women who took DES during pregnancy. Studies are under way to see if such a link exists in sons as well (for more information, call the DES Cancer Network at 800-337-6384).

Early Detection

Your physician should include an examination of your testes during every routine medical examination. But since that probably occurs only once a year, you can improve your chance of detecting a problem as early as possible by performing a testicular self-examination (TSE) every month.

Testicular Self-Exam (TSE).

Performing this simple, 3-minute self-examination once a month will help you detect testicular cancer. The best time to check yourself is in the shower because fingers glide over soapy skin, and it's easier to concentrate on the texture underneath. After a warm bath is also good because the heat causes the skin to relax, making the exam easier.