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Testicular Cancer

Signs and symptoms of testicular cancer

Testicular cancer is now highly curable, especially if diagnosed in good timeSome men we interviewed looked for lumps, having been encouraged to examine themselves by their mothers. Typically the man or his partner finds a painless lump in the testicle. Lumps, swellings and asymmetry are not always due to cancer, but it is sensible to have any lump or swelling examined by a doctor. Here men  we interviewed describe how they found a lump while taking a bath or a shower. (For more on self-examination see 'Message to others'.)

 

Explains that he found a lump while having a bath.

Explains that he found a lump while having a bath.

Age at interview: 30
Sex: Male
Age at diagnosis: 27
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It was probably about September '98 and I was having a bath one evening, and I've always been brought up by my mum sort of to do self test myself, to test my testicles for testicular cancer. And sort of, I found this lump on my testicle and I was just sort of shot to my feet, I knew exactly what it was. At that point, which was, and I found this lump which felt like a lump inside the testicle itself as opposed to anything else. And definitely I had never felt anything like that before. So what I did, I made an appointment the following day, I wanted to get straight to the doctor and to get things, get things checked out. I just knew what it was but obviously first I had to go to the doctor.

Enlargement or swelling of one testicle is also common. The testicle may feel abnormally firm or hard when touched, or the texture may feel different.

 

Explains that he noticed that one of his testicles was bigger than the other.

Explains that he noticed that one of his testicles was bigger than the other.

Age at interview: 36
Sex: Male
Age at diagnosis: 33
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Okay I suppose the story started er when I was around 30 years of age, which was 6 years ago. I noticed that my testicles were of different sizes. I don't know whether they'd always been like that or if I'd just suddenly noticed but you know hearing things on the television and reading in the newspaper about potential problems in that area that started to concern me somewhat. Having said that I didn't actually do anything about it, I just was thinking about it and then I tried to push it to the back of my mind. But it was always there in my mind so I didn't quite know what to do and how to approach the problem. But as I was fairly fit and young and it wasn't affecting me. I wasn't getting any pain or anything like that I didn't really feel that it was too urgent to get anything sorted out. So I basically just lived with it and kept monitoring the situation for a couple of years after that.
 
 

Explains that his wife insisted that he consult the GP, after seeing a TV programme, because his...

Explains that his wife insisted that he consult the GP, after seeing a TV programme, because his...

Age at interview: 39
Sex: Male
Age at diagnosis: 36
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As I said it was in 1998 and the wife had been watching a daytime TV programme and on the programme they actually showed you what to look for in testicular cancer. And the wife was getting a bit worried, because one of the testicles was really hard and the other one was what we call normal, you know it was soft. And she said it was hard and that and she insisted I go up to the doctor because she's actually seen it on the TV. So that's how I found out that I actually had the cancer.

Did the GP then examine you?

Yes, the GP examined me and he referred me to the local hospital, so I turned up at the local hospital on a Friday and was taken in on the Monday for the operation.  


 

Sometimes symptoms are not so specific. One man we spoke to said that his testicle just didn't 'feel right', after an incident when his baby kicked him. Another recalled that the first symptom he noticed was general fatigue. It was only much later, after he had consulted his GP on two occasions that he noticed that one of his testicles was swollen. Another man noticed that he had a slight irritation when ejaculating. This was the only symptom he had.

Some men discovered lumps or other irregularities after they or their wives had read articles in the paper, or heard about testicular cancer on the radio or television.

Sometimes men experience discomfort or pain in the testicle before a lump is discovered.

 

Explains that his first symptom was severe pain in the left testicle.

Explains that his first symptom was severe pain in the left testicle.

Age at interview: 32
Sex: Male
Age at diagnosis: 27
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I was diagnosed in July 97. I was over staying at my, with my wife to be's parents in their house, we were back for a christening and I had this severe pain in my left testicle when I woke up one morning. And I instantly knew that something wasn't right and luckily it was the day I was due to fly home. 

And I was in that much pain I wasn't convinced I was going to be able to fly but I took quite a fly painkillers and got on the plane. And I remember I was sort of sweating profusely on the way home on the plane. And I got off the plane, the plane landed about quarter to 4 in the afternoon, I was picked up and luckily my own GPs is only about 20 minutes from the local airport. So straight down to my GP's and sort of demanded to see my doctor who examined me and was very honest with me and said "I think, I suspect that you might have testicular cancer. It's something that you're going to have to, I don't want to shock you but you've got to bear in mind that this is what I think it is, that there's a lump there which needs to be examined." 

Less commonly, men with metastases, when the cancer has spread to the para-aortic lymph nodes, experience back pain before they find anything wrong with a testicle.

 

Explains that he first experienced severe pain in his back.

Explains that he first experienced severe pain in his back.

Age at interview: 50
Sex: Male
Age at diagnosis: 44
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Right well initially it started in around early 95 when I started having backache. And initially when I went to the doctor he diagnosed a trapped nerve in my back. And so for about the next eight months he was treating me for a trapped nerve and just giving me sort of painkillers during this time. At that time the sort of, there was no sort of, on the testicles there wasn't any sort of sign that I had anything else, it was just purely backache. And in about April 95 he sent me for a barium scan because he thought it was something to do, I was suffering from constipation and he thought that it was something to do with that. So I had a barium scan in April 95 and that was, there was no problem with that and from then on it just sort of went on. I was still working at the time and the pain and that was just horrendous, I was just sort of total pain. I used to come home, sit in bed, go to bed and just sort of sit upright because I couldn't lie down with the pain. And that carried on, going to the GP and just getting nowhere until round about Christmas of 95 when I saw a stand in doctor. And just at this time the left testicle had swollen up and dropped with the veins expanding.
 

Occasionally, men with pulmonary metastases (when the cancer has spread to the lung) first discover they have testicular cancer because they are breathless or because they are coughing up blood.  

Rarely, men may discover they have a problem because the cancer has spread to another part of the body and first appears as a lump under the skin.

 

Explains that he first found a lump above his collar bone.

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Explains that he first found a lump above his collar bone.

Age at interview: 24
Sex: Male
Age at diagnosis: 22
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Okay I was 21 and approaching having finals at university. And I was sat in the library a lot, doing a lot of work, and one evening I was kind of reading away and I started rubbing my throat. And I noticed just above my collar bone that a lump had appeared. And it was about the size of an egg and it had just kind of appeared within what must've been like a few minutes pretty much. And I thought not much of it at the time really because it was kind of soft and smooth and wasn't painful to play with. And it didn't really occur to me that it was anything untoward for absolutely ages, I thought it was like a muscle spasm that had just kind of happened and would kind of vanish away gradually. And then about after a week I made a doctor's appointment because it still wasn't going anywhere, and I missed that because it still didn't seem too much of a problem. And then probably a week after that I made another doctor's appointment and went in, spoke to the GP. And she really didn't know what it was, she was kind of surprised.

 

Explains that the cancer was first discovered as a lump in his leg.

Explains that the cancer was first discovered as a lump in his leg.

Age at interview: 41
Sex: Male
Age at diagnosis: 35
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Okay it started in 1996, I'd say about June, July. I happened to find a very small lump. Not actually on the testicles or anywhere in that area, it was at the lower limb of the top of the leg actually. I didn't do anything about it actually for about 2 to 3 months because I didn't, I didn't know anything about cancer at all, I'd never really heard of it. I just happened to be at the doctors for something else and I happened to mention it to him and from there I went to see a specialist and had the biopsy and unfortunately it come back as cancer.

Okay so you found this lump at the top of your leg?

Right.

And what were your thoughts at that time when you saw, you found that lump, I mean what

Well I didn't think nothing of it really I just thought just a piece of fatty tissue or something like that. I had, didn't even think of cancer or anything like that at all. It was just a very, very hard piece of skin, that's all I thought it was. Because it was at the top of the leg as well I didn't think nothing of it, nothing at all.

Very occasionally, men may experience tender nipples, the development of breasts or excessive sweating, symptoms that are caused by a hormone that is produced by some testicular tumours.

 

Explains that his first symptoms were sore nipples and back pain.

Explains that his first symptoms were sore nipples and back pain.

Age at interview: 35
Sex: Male
Age at diagnosis: 30
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Yes, I started with a bad back in the summer of 97 which quickly added to those symptoms I started with, sore nipples, nipple tenderness and even nipple swelling. And really unbeknown to me those were the early signs because of the hormone imbalance that's caused by the testicles not working properly, they were the early signs, allied to the fact that the tumour had spread into my back which was causing the back pain.

And then you went to your doctor?

And I went to my GP who really didn't recognise those as being symptoms that you know that could exist, they were, all really the GPs at that time were aware of would be to look out for things like swelling of the testicles. And since that point I've actually seen other GPs and I've told them when I've seen them that you know there are other symptoms that can be there and it's been to their surprise really. And in fact I've even been in hospital with lads that had exactly the same problems as I have er either with a bad back or with nipple swelling and these lads had all had testicular cancer as well.

Last reviewed December 2017.
Last updated December 2017.
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