How to Tell If You Have Testicular Cancer

Symptoms, treatments and why it affects young men

Testicular cancer ribbon to raise awareness.

Symptoms, treatments and why it affects young men

When in doubt, get it checked out — that’s the message for men with any testicular concerns.


“What’s important to understand is that testicular cancer is a very treatable condition in most cases,” says Ramdev Konijeti, MD, a urologic oncologist at Scripps Cancer Center and Scripps Clinic.

Testicular cancer is a type of cancer that affects the male reproductive organs responsible for sperm and testosterone production. It is a rare type of cancer, making up less than 1% of all cancers in men. But unlike most cancers, testicular cancer tends to develop at a younger age. It is the most common cancer in men 15 to 35.

“It has a bimodal age distribution. You get a peak of young men in their late teens and early 20s and then another in their 30s and 40s,” Dr. Konijeti says. “If they make it past that, they likely won’t get it. The majority of cases occurs in those two age groups.” 

The American Cancer Society estimates 9,760 new cases of testicular cancer will be diagnosed and 500 people will die from the disease in 2024.

Most common sign: swelling or lump

As with many cancers, the key to successful treatment is early detection. What should men in this age range look out for?

The most common sign of testicular cancer is a lump or swelling in one of the testicles. This lump may be painless or may cause discomfort.

Not all lumps in the testicles are cancer. Other conditions and health issues can cause the same symptoms, such as an injury or an infection. Still, it’s crucial to have any lumps or swelling checked by a doctor to rule out testicular cancer.

“Patients with testicular masses can have very different symptoms,” explains Munveer Bhangoo, MD, medical oncologist at Scripps Clinic. “It can be a painless lump or bump, it can be mild pain or numbness, or it can be acute and severe pain. It’s very important to be vigilant and seek medical attention if you experience any of these symptoms.”  

Other signs and symptoms

While the most common testicular cancer symptom is painless swelling or a lump, other symptoms include: 

Change in consistency of the testicles

A sign of testicular cancer is when one or both testicles change in size or shape. This could be caused by a tumor or swelling in the testicle.

Feeling of heaviness in the scrotum

Some men with testicular cancer may feel heaviness in their scrotum, the sac that holds the testicles. They may also have a dull ache in their lower belly or groin area.

Pain or discomfort in a testicle or in the scrotum 

While testicular cancer is often painless, some people may experience pain or discomfort in the testicle or scrotum. This pain may be constant or may come and go.

Other symptoms include:

  • Sudden collection of fluid in the scrotum 
  • Breast growth or loss of sexual desire 
  • Growth of facial and body hair at an abnormally young age 
  • Lower back pain if cancer spreads 
  • Sudden severe shortness of breath or a bloody cough 
  • Unexplained fevers, weight loss or night sweats

If you have any of these symptoms, it’s important to see your doctor to rule out or confirm testicular cancer.

How is testicular cancer diagnosed?

A physical exam and an ultrasound are usually the first tests performed.

During a physical exam, your doctor will feel your testicles for any lumps or swelling. They may also check your lymph nodes for any signs of cancer.

An ultrasound is a test that uses sound waves to create pictures inside the body. It helps doctors see if there is a tumor in a testicle.

Blood tests can show if there are tumor markers in the blood. These markers come from cancer cells and can be found in the blood.

Sometimes, your doctor might suggest a biopsy to check for testicular cancer. A small piece of tissue is taken from the testicle during the procedure and examined under a microscope for cancer cells.

Stages of testicular cancer

If you have testicular cancer, your doctor will check how much the cancer has spread.

  • Stage 1 means the cancer is only in the testicle.
  • Stage 2 means it has spread to nearby lymph nodes.
  • Stage 3 means it has spread to other parts of the body like the lungs, liver, or brain.

Treatments for testicular cancer

Treatment for testicular cancer depends on the stage of the cancer, your health and preferences. Common treatments include surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy.


Surgery is often used to treat testicular cancer. The type of surgery depends on the cancer stage. Sometimes, the whole testicle is removed, while other times only the tumor is removed.

Radiation therapy

Radiation therapy uses high-dose X-rays to kill cancer cells. It can be used after surgery to remove any remaining cancer cells. It can also be the main treatment for testicular cancer that has not spread beyond the testicle.


Chemotherapy kills cancer cells with drugs. It can be used before or after surgery to shrink the tumor or eliminate any remaining cancer cells.


Sometimes, the doctor may recommend surveillance. This means having regular check-ups and tests to keep an eye on the cancer. It could be a choice for those who had surgery to remove early-stage testicular cancer.

Coordinated care makes difference

Read the story about Sean O’Callaghan, a young testicular cancer patient who credits the care he received at Scripps for his successful treatment.

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