Testicles are a part of the male reproductive system. In adult males, these 2 organs are each normally a little smaller than a golf ball. They are contained within a sack of skin called the scrotum, which hangs beneath the base of the penis.
Testicles have 2 main functions:
- They make male hormones, like testosterone.
- They make sperm, the male cells needed to fertilize a female’s egg to start a pregnancy.
Sperm cells form inside the testicle and are then stored in the epididymis a small coiled tube behind each testicle, where they mature.
When a man ejaculates, sperm cells travel from the epididymis through the vas deferens to the seminal vesicles, where they mix with fluids made by the vesicles, the prostate gland, and other glands to form semen. This fluid then travels through the urethra and out through the penis.
Testicular cancer facts
- Males of any age can develop testicular cancer, including infants and elderly men.
- About half of all cases of testicular cancer are in men between the ages of 20 and 34.
- Testicular cancer is not common; a man’s lifetime chance of getting it is about 1 in 263. The risk of dying from this cancer is about 1 in 5,000.
- Testicular cancer can be treated and usually cured, especially when it’s found early – when it’s small and hasn’t spread.
Symptoms of testicular cancer
You can’t be sure you have testicular cancer from just symptoms, so it’s important to see a health care provider about any testicular symptoms that concern you. Don’t wait.
- The most common symptom of testicular cancer is a painless lump on or in a testicle.
- Sometimes the testicle may become swollen or larger, without a lump. (It’s normal for one testicle to be slightly larger than the other, and for one to hang lower than the other.)
- Some testicular tumors might cause pain, but most of the time they don’t. Men with testicular cancer may also have a heavy or aching feeling in the lower belly or scrotum.
- Breast growth or soreness: Rarely, testicular cancers can cause men’s breasts to grow or become sore. This is because certain types of testicular cancer can make high levels of hormones that affect the breasts. Some men might also notice a loss of sexual desire.
- Signs of early puberty in boys: Some testicular cancers make male sex hormones. This may not cause any specific symptoms in men, but in boys it can cause signs of puberty, such as a deepening of the voice and the growth of facial and body hair, at an early age.
Symptoms of testicular cancer that has spread
If testicular cancer is not found early, it can spread to other parts of the body. Even when testicular cancer has spread, there may still be no symptoms. But some men might have some of the following:
- Low back pain from cancer that has spread to the lymph nodes in back of the belly. (Lymph nodes are bean-sized collections of immune cells.)
- Shortness of breath, chest pain, or a cough (even coughing up blood) from cancer spread in the lungs.
- Belly pain, either from enlarged lymph nodes, or because the cancer has spread to the liver.
- Headaches or confusion from cancer spread to the brain.
Non-cancer causes of testicular or scrotal symptoms
Problems other than cancer can also cause symptoms. Because it’s hard to figure out the cause based on symptoms alone, it’s important to have any testicular or scrotal change checked by a health care provider.
Some of the conditions that can cause a testicle lump, swelling, and/or pain include:
- Torsion of the testicle
- Epididymal cyst/spermatocele
- Inguinal hernia
- Kidney stones