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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. It is not usually painful, but some men have a dull ache in the affected testicle, or in their lower abdomen. Your scrotum may feel heavy.

Sometimes testicular cancer cells can spread into lymph glands at the back of the abdomen. This can cause backache.

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, there may be lumps in other parts of the body, such as around the collarbone, or in the neck. These lumps are lymph glands that contain cancer cells.

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

 

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A lump 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.

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 (figures courtesy of Mr Mike Wallace, FRCS).

 

Discomfort or pain

Testicular cancer is not usually painful, but about 1 in 5 men (20%) have a sharp pain in the scrotum as a first symptom. Some men may have a dull ache in

  • The affected testicle
  • Their lower abdomen
 

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.

 

Hormones in the blood

Many testicular cancers make hormones that 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.

 

Symptoms of testicular cancer in lymph glands

Sometimes testicular cancer cells can spread into lymph glands at the back of the abdomen. This can cause backache, which is usually constant and you need to take painkillers. 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, there may be lumps in other parts of the body, such as around the collarbone, or in the neck. These lumps are lymph glands that contain cancer cells.

 

Symptoms of testicular cancer in the lungs

It is not very common for testicular cancer to spread to other organs, 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.

 

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.

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Updated: 18 February 2013