Testicular cancer: The balls in your court

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Testicular cancer is a highly treatable disease if caught early, so know the risks and check yourself.

As April is testicular cancer awareness month, we've broken down the facts to the bare necessities. This is what you should know.

The testicles are part of the male reproductive system and are responsible for the production of male hormones (mostly testosterone) and sperm. Testicular cancer starts as an abnormal growth or tumour that develops in one or both testicles. There are several types of testicular cancer, but the most common is the germ cell tumour.

The rate of men diagnosed with testicular cancer has doubled in the last 50 years. Early detection and knowing the risks is key. Those at risk include:
¦Young men between the age of 15-40 years
¦Men with a family history such as a brother or father diagnosed with testicular cancer
¦Men who have had a previous occurrence of testicular cancer
¦Men who have undescended testes at birth

A warm environment is best for your testicles - for example, the shower. Make sure you find somewhere you can relax and, importantly, won't be disturbed! How to test yourself:
¦Get hands-on and get to know what's normal for you. Roll one of your testicles between your thumb and fingers to check for any lumps or swelling
¦Don't play favourites. Repeat with the other testicle
¦Smooth and firm, comfortable to touch
¦One testicle is slightly bigger than the other
¦The left testicular often hangs lower than the other

¦A swelling or a lump, or any pain when feeling the testicle
¦Testicles feel heavier or have changed in shape or size
¦You feel pain down there
Remember, most lumps and bumps on your testicles are not cancer, but early detection is key.
If something doesn't feel right, see a doctor.

Testicular cancer is a highly treatable cancer and can be effectively treated, and often cured, if diagnosed and treated early. Advanced testicular cancer can also be cured with treatment including:
¦Orchiectomy (surgical removal of the affected testis), done under general anesthetic
¦Chemotherapy or radiotherapy, often prescribed after surgery to treat any remaining cancer cells that may have spread to other parts of the body, such as lymph nodes

Testicular cancer and the removal of one testicle should not alter sexual function or fertility. The effect on fertility following removal of one of the testicles is minimal as a single testicle produces such large numbers of sperm. Men with testicular cancer should talk to their oncologist about sperm banking before commencing chemotherapy or radiation therapy.

The most important step is to talk to your doctor. You may consider getting a second or third doctor's opinion.
¦For more information phone 0800 660 800, email info@testicular.org.nz, visit www.testicular.org.nz

The Movember Foundation is a global charity committed to men living happier, healthier, longer lives. Since 2003, millions have joined the men's health movement, raising $825 million and funding over 1000 projects focusing on prostate cancer, testicular cancer, poor mental health and physical inactivity. The foundation is working to ensure that men and boys living with and beyond testicular cancer have the treatment and care needed to be physically and mentally well.
It is bringing people together to collaborate on solutions that will fundamentally change the way men with testicular cancer are treated and supported. They are funding initiatives that:
¦Deepen the worldwide scientific understanding of testicular cancer and its treatments and outcomes.
¦Provide proactive support to men and boys affected by testicular cancer and their families.
¦Educate men and boys on risk factors and encourage them to seek treatment.
Despite being the most common cancer in young men, testicular cancer is often a forgotten cancer due to early detection and treatment. Our projects look at underinvested areas such as improving access to healthcare services and treatment options for relapse, says executive director of programmes Paul Villanti.

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