Men with testicular cancer may experience a variety of symptoms or signs. Sometimes, men with testicular cancer do not show any of these symptoms. Or, these symptoms may be caused by a medical condition that is not cancer, such as a spermatocele (noncancerous cyst that develops in the epididymis, which is near the top of the testicle), varicocele (enlargement of the blood vessels from the testicle), hydrocele (a buildup of fluid in the membrane around the testicle), and hernia (opening in the abdominal muscle).
The first sign of testicular cancer is often enlargement of the testicle or a small lump or area of hardness on the testicle, which can be either painless or painful. Other symptoms may go unnoticed until the cancer is advanced and has spread to other parts of the body. Regular testicular self-examinations and examinations by doctors can help detect the cancer at an early stage, when it is more likely to be successfully treated. If you are concerned about a symptom or sign, please talk with your doctor.
Symptoms of testicular cancer may include:
- Painless lump or swelling on either testicle. If detected early, a testicular tumor may be about the size of a pea or a marble, but it can grow much larger. Any lump, enlargement, hardness, pain, or tenderness of the testicle should be evaluated by a doctor as soon as possible.
- Pain or discomfort (with or without swelling) in a testicle or the scrotum. Pain can be caused by many different conditions, including infections, injury, twisting, and cancer. Infection of the testicle is called orchitis. Infection of the epididymis is called epididymitis. The epididymis is a small organ attached to the testicle that is made up of coiled tubes that carry sperm away from the testicle. If infection is suspected, a patient may be given a prescription for antibiotics. If antibiotics do not solve the problem, tests for testicular cancer are often performed.
- Change in the way a testicle feels. For example, one testicle may also become more firm than the other testicle. Or, testicular cancer may cause the testicle to grow bigger or to become smaller.
- Feeling of heaviness in the scrotum. For example, a testicle that feels very firm or hard may be a sign of a problem.
- Dull ache in the lower abdomen or groin
- Sudden buildup of fluid in the scrotum
- Breast tenderness or growth. Although rare, some testicular tumors produce hormones that cause breast tenderness or growth of breast tissue (a condition called gynecomastia).
Lower back pain, shortness of breath, chest pain, and bloody sputum (phlegm) can be symptoms of later-stage testicular cancer, but many other diseases can also cause these symptoms.
Men with testicular cancer have an increased risk of blood clots in the veins that can cause swelling in one or both legs and shortness of breath. Swelling or shortness of breath from a blood clot in a large vein (called deep venous thrombosis or DVT) or a pulmonary (lung) artery (called pulmonary embolism) in a young or middle-aged man may be the first sign of a testicular cancer.
Finding testicular cancer early
Most often, testicular cancer can be detected at an early stage, and men often find the cancer themselves while performing self-examinations. Some doctors recommend that men ages 15 to 55 perform a monthly self-examination to identify any changes. However, some testicular cancers may not cause symptoms and may go undetected until they reach an advanced stage. Men who notice a lump, hardness, enlargement, pain, or any other change in one or both of their testicles should visit their doctor immediately.
Your doctor will ask you questions about the symptoms you are experiencing to help find out the cause of the problem, called a diagnosis. This may include how long you’ve been experiencing the symptom(s) and how often.
If cancer is diagnosed, relieving symptoms and side effects remains an important part of cancer care and treatment. This may also be called symptom management, palliative care, or supportive care. Be sure to talk with your health care team about symptoms you experience, including any new symptoms or a change in symptoms.