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Should I see a testicular cancer specialist?

Men and woman discussing testicular cancer

This page tells you about the guidelines that UK GPs have to help them decide who needs to see a specialist for suspected testicular cancer. There is information about

 

A quick guide to what's on this page

Should I see a testicular cancer specialist?

The symptoms of testicular cancer can be similar to other conditions that affect the testes. So it can be very difficult for GPs to decide who may have a suspected cancer and who may have something much less serious. But there are particular symptoms that mean your GP should refer you to a specialist straight away. The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) has produced guidelines for GPs to help them decide which patients need to be seen urgently by a specialist.

Guidelines for urgent referral

You should ideally get an appointment within 2 weeks for an urgent referral. A swelling or lump in the testicle is the only symptom that the NICE guidelines say needs urgent referral for possible testicular cancer.

Remember that fewer than 4 in 100 testicular lumps are cancer. Your GP may be able to tell that your symptoms are unlikely to be cancer. For example, they may try to shine a strong light through the lump. If it is a harmless, fluid filled, cyst the light will pass through. If it is a solid lump, it won't.

What to do if you are worried

If you are worried that your GP is not taking your symptoms as seriously as you think they should, you could print this page and take it along to an appointment. Ask your GP to talk it through with you.

 

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

 

 

About these guidelines

The symptoms of testicular cancer can be similar to other conditions that affect the testes. So it can be very difficult for GPs to decide who may have a suspected cancer and who may have something much less serious that will go away on its own.

With many symptoms, it is perfectly right that your GP should ask you to wait to see if they get better or respond to treatment such as antibiotics. If GPs referred everyone they saw to a specialist immediately, the system would get jammed and people needing urgent appointments wouldn't be able to get them.

There are particular symptoms that mean your GP should refer you to a specialist straight away. The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) has produced guidelines for GPs to help them decide which patients need to be seen urgently by a specialist.

While reading these guidelines, it is important to remember that

  • Swelling of the pouch of skin that surrounds the testicles (scrotum) is common but is not very likely to be cancer, especially if the swelling is on the outside of the testicles
  • Cancer is more likely if there is a solid swelling of the testicle
  • Testicular cancer is very unlikely in men over the age of 55
 

Guidelines for urgent referral

According to the NICE guidelines, you should ideally get an appointment within 2 weeks for an urgent referral. A swelling or lump in the testicle is the only symptom that the NICE guidelines has outlined as needing urgent referral for possible testicular cancer.

Remember that most testicular lumps are NOT cancer. Fewer than 4 in 100 are cancer. By examining you, your GP may be able to tell that your symptoms are unlikely to be cancer. For example, if you have a lump, your GP may try to shine a strong light through it. If it is a harmless, fluid filled, cyst (called a hydrocoele) the light will pass through. If it is a solid lump, it won't.

Your GP will not take chances if there is any possibility that you do have cancer. They will refer you to a specialist straight away. There is  information about the symptoms of testicular cancer and how to check your testicles in this section.

 

If you are worried

If you are worried that your GP is not taking your symptoms as seriously as you think they should, you could print this page and take it along to an appointment. Ask your GP to talk it through with you. Then you can decide together whether you need to see a specialist and if so, how soon.

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Updated: 20 February 2013