Testicular cancer is unusual compared to other cancers because it tends to affect younger men, however it is relatively rare compared to other cancers such as lung or prostate cancer. It is the most common type of cancer to affect men between the ages of 15 and 49. Rates of testicular cancer are five times higher in white men than in black men. The reasons for this are unclear.
The most common symptom is a painless lump or swelling in the testicles. Other symptoms can include:
- a dull ache in the scrotum (the sac of skin that hangs underneath the penis and contains the testicles)
- a feeling of heaviness in the scrotum
Men should check their testicles every month for any unusual lumps.
The testicles are the two oval-shaped male sex organs that sit inside the scrotum on either side of the penis.
The testicles are an important part of the male reproductive system because they produce sperm and the hormone testosterone, which plays a major role in male sexual development.
The different types of testicular cancer are classified by the type of cells the cancer first begins in.
The most common type of testicular cancer is known as ‘germ cell testicular cancer’, which accounts for around 95% of all cases. Germ cells are a type of cell that the body uses to help create sperm.
There are two main types of germ cell testicular cancer. They are:
- seminomas, which account for around 40-45% of all germ cell testicular cancers
- non-seminomas, which account for around 40-45% of all germ cell testicular cancers
Less common types of testicular cancer include:
- Leydig cell tumours, which account for around 1-3% of cases
- Sertoli cell tumours, which account for around 1% of cases
- Lymphoma, which accounts for around 4% of cases
The cause or causes of testicular cancer are unknown, but a number of things have been identified that increase the chance of developing the condition. These include:
- having a family history of testicular cancer
- being born with undescended testicles (cryptorchidism). About 3-5% of boys are born with their testicles located inside their abdomen, which usually descend into the scrotum during the first four months of life
Testicular cancer is one of the most treatable types of cancer. Even for those men who have more advanced disease, where cancer has spread outside the testicles, will have a high chance of being cured.
Compared to other cancers, deaths from testicular cancer are rare.