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Testicular cancer symptoms

Men and woman discussing testicular cancer

This page is about the symptoms of testicular cancer. There is information about

 

A quick guide to what's on this page

Testicular cancer symptoms

The most common symptom of testicular cancer is a lump or swelling in part of one testicle. But most testicular lumps are NOT cancer.

A lump that is cancer can be as small as a pea or it may be much larger. 

Other symptoms may include 

  • An increase in firmness or change in texture of a testicle
  • Pain or discomfort in a testicle or the scrotum (the sac that holds the testicles)
  • A heavy feeling in the scrotum
  • An unusual difference between one testicle and the other

Less common symptoms

Sometimes testicular cancer cells can spread into lymph glands at the back of the tummy (abdomen). This can cause backache or a dull ache in the lower tummy (abdomen).

The cells can also spread to the lymph nodes in the centre of your chest, between the lungs. This could cause a cough, difficulty in breathing or swallowing, and a swelling in your chest. If testicular cancer has spread to other lymph glands, you may feel lumps in other parts of the body, such as around the collarbone, or in the neck. 

It is not very common for testicular cancer to spread to other organs in the body apart from the lungs. If it has spread to the lungs you may have a cough or feel breathless. 

Rarely, men have swollen breasts due to hormones produced by the testicular cancer cells.

 

CR PDF Icon You can view and print the quick guides for all the pages in the About testicular cancer section.

 

 

A lump or swelling in the testicle

The most common symptom of a testicular cancer is a lump or swelling in part of one testicle. It can be as small as a pea or it may be much larger.

You may notice an unusual difference between one testicle and the other.

Remember that most testicular lumps are NOT cancer. At a testicular clinic at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham, only 76 cancers were found out of 2,000 men seen with a testicular lump. This means that fewer than 4 in every 100 testicular lumps (4%) are cancer.

Visiting the GP

 

Discomfort or pain in a testicle or the scrotum

Testicular cancer is not usually painful, but about 1 in 5 men (20%) have a sharp pain in the testicle or the scrotum as a first symptom. The scrotum is the sac that holds the testicles.

 

A heavy scrotum

Your scrotum may feel heavy. Your GP may shine a strong light through your testicle. If you have a fluid filled cyst (called a hydrocoele) rather than a cancer, the light will show through. A cancer is a solid lump and the light can't pass through it. Your doctor may call this test transillumination.

 

Less common symptoms

Symptoms may sometimes be caused if the cancer cells have spread to lymph nodes or to other organs in the body. 

If the cancer has spread to lymph glands

Sometimes testicular cancer cells can spread into lymph glands at the back of the tummy (abdomen). This can cause backache or a dull ache in the lower tummy (abdomen). Your doctor may call these lymph glands the para aortic or retro peritoneal lymph glands. Sometimes testicular cancer spreads into lymph glands lower down such as the pelvic lymph glands.

Diagram showing the pelvic and para-aortic lymph nodes

The cells can also spread to the lymph nodes in the mediastinum. This is an area in the centre of your chest, between the lungs. If you have testicular cancer in the lymph nodes in your mediastinum, you could have

  • A cough
  • Difficulty in breathing
  • Difficulty in swallowing
  • A swelling in your chest

If testicular cancer has spread to other lymph glands, you may feel lumps in other parts of the body, such as around the collarbone, or in the neck. 

If the cancer has spread to the lungs

It is not very common for testicular cancer to spread to other organs in the body apart from the lungs. If it has spread to the lungs you may have a cough or feel breathless. Testicular cancer can usually be cured, even if it has spread when it is diagnosed.

Symptoms due to hormones

Many testicular cancers make hormones and they can be detected in blood tests. Doctors call these hormones markers. There is more about this in our section about diagnosing testicular cancer. Occasionally, men with testicular cancer have tender or swollen breasts because of these hormones.

 

More information

The earlier a cancer is picked up, the easier it is to treat it and the more likely the treatment is to be successful. So it is important that you go to your GP as soon as possible if you notice worrying symptoms.

You can find information about finding testicular cancer early in this section.

symptom to diagnosis generic

 

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Updated: 6 May 2015