Self-Exams for Early Testicular Cancer Detection
Like any cancer, testicular cancer poses serious health risks to those diagnosed with it. The key to treatment and survival from testicular cancer lies in early detection.
Sadly, most cases of testicular cancer are not diagnosed until symptoms have worsened enough to send the patient to see a doctor, or as a result of tests performed for another condition. It is clear that more men need to be engaging in regular self-examinations. This way, you can be the first to spot an abnormality of the testicles and seek treatment from a medical professional.
How Can I Complete a Self-Exam?
Performing a testicular self-examination is quick, and includes the following simple steps:
- Begin the exam after a warm shower to ensure that the skin is loose and relaxed, making it easier to feel any lumps within the testicles.
- Make sure to use both hands with the index and middle fingers underneath the testicle and the thumbs on top. Once the testicle rests firmly between your fingers, you should start to roll your thumbs across the testicle.
It is important to note that you will feel certain anatomical structures such as the epididymis, which is located at the back of the testicle. The epididymis is responsible for transporting sperm. It may feel like a lump with a strange chord-like texture, but it is absolutely normal and should not concern you in any way.
Most real lumps will be painless bits of tissue the size of a pea or larger. If you believe you have found a lump, it is critical to contact a doctor immediately. Even if it is a false alarm, it is so much better to be safe than sorry when it comes to testicular cancer.
Additional Tests for Testicular Cancer
If a physician finds a suspicious lump or any other sign of testicular cancer, they will need to perform additional tests in order to determine a cause for these abnormalities. Usually, an ultrasound of the testicles is the first to be done.
All ultrasounds use sound waves in order to produce images of inner tissues of the body. These sound waves bounce around inside the testicle and reverberate back to create a clear depiction of the organ and any possible lumps within it. If the lump appears to be solid, it is more likely to be cancerous. Other imaging tests such as x-rays, a computed tomography (CT) scan, a positron emission tomography (PET) scan, or a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan may also be utilized to more accurately diagnose a patient.
Blood tests may also be completed in order to diagnose a case of testicular cancer. These tests look for high levels of particular proteins known as tumor markers. When present, these tumor markers suggest the existence of a testicular tumor.
Many cancer diagnoses involve a biopsy. A biopsy entails removing a tiny piece of the suspicious tissue and analyzing it. However, testicular cancer is unique in the fact that a biopsy may risk the spread of the cancer, so many physicians will recommend immediate treatment rather than risk a worsening case of testicular cancer.