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Testicular Cancer


What are the testicles? 

The testicles are part of the male reproductive system and are classified as glands. They are similar to the female ovaries. 

What do they do?

Testicles are responsible for making sperm and produce the hormone Testosterone which is the hormone that contributes to male development. 

Where are they?

Testicles are located outside of the main body and the reason for that is sperm needs to be kept at a slightly lower temperature than our internal organs. The scrotum regulates the temperature of the testicles and maintains them at approximately 34-35 degrees celsius which is optimal for sperm production. 

What is testicular cancer?

Testicular cancer is a growth of cells that starts in the testicles. These cells are abnormal and will start to divide and grow in an uncontrolled way. 


  • Testicular cancer isn’t very common. It makes up approximately 1% of all male cancers. 
  • Testicular cancer is the most common cancer found in young men between the ages of 15-39 years of age. 
  • Survival rates are good with treatment, at about 95%. 

What are the risk factors that make a person more likely to get testicular cancer?

As with all diseases, the risk factors can be increased due to certain factors. Below are some of the risk factors associated with testicular cancer: 

  • Undescended testicles - this is when the testicles have not “dropped” into the scrotum and can require surgery to move them down. The risk is greater in men who have not had the condition corrected. 
  • A history of testicular cancer within the men in your immediate family can increase your risk but most men with testicular cancer do not have a family history of the disease. 
  • HIV infection 
  • Previous medical history of testicular cancer in the other testicle. 
  • The risk of testicular cancer among white men is about 4 to 5 times that of Black and Asian-American men. 
  • Approximately 50% of testicular cancers occur in men between the ages of 20 and 34. 

Early warning signs to be aware of

Most of the time the earliest sign that something is not quite right, and should be investigated, is finding a small lump. Sometimes it can be that the testicle may be swollen or larger than normal. 

Checking your testicles regularly and reporting any abnormalities should be part of your personal health checks. Early detection may improve the chances of getting rid of the cancer successfully. 

This link is a good guide on how to check properly your testicles: 

Other symptoms that may present

  • An increase in the firmness of a testicle 
  • A difference in appearance between 1 testicle and the other 
  • A dull ache or sharp pain in your testicles or scrotum, which may come and go 
  • A feeling of heaviness in your scrotum  

These symptoms do not necessarily mean that you have testicular cancer but it means that you should report to the medical officer in charge and seek further advice. Never ignore these symptoms as early detection of testicular cancer may give you a chance at a better outcome. 

What to do if you develop any of these symptoms?

Should you be onboard and develop any of the above symptoms it is important to report to the Medical Officer in charge and accurately relay the symptoms to them. They will likely take down a lot of information that you may not necessarily feel is relevant but when the information is passed to a Doctor ashore they always need to make sure that everything they may want to know is documented.  

Think about the risk factors mentioned above and be sure to mention any of them to the Medical Officer onboard so that they document it for sharing with the onshore Doctor. This will help them plan the most appropriate response to your symptoms. 

The medical officer is likely to assist with your symptoms via the help of the onshore Doctor and an onshore appointment will be arranged for you to see a Doctor in person. 

How is testicular cancer diagnosed?

Once the medical officer has spoken to a Doctor ashore it is very likely that an appointment will be made for you to see a Doctor in port. 

They will carry out a physical examination of your testicles as well as asking you a lot of questions about your health and the health of your immediate family. 

Should they be concerned about their examination they are likely to refer you to a specialist for further tests, which can include: 

  • Ultrasound of the scrotum. This is non-invasive and uses a device that sends high-frequency sound waves to produce an image of your testicle. 
  • Blood tests. These will look for certain markers in your blood associated with testicular cancer. 
  • Sometimes they may need to perform further tests or even surgery so that they can examine the results under a microscope to identify testicular cancer. 

What is likely to happen if you are diagnosed with testicular cancer?

If you receive a diagnosis for testicular cancer, then there are options available for treatment, and the specialist will discuss these with you depending on the stage that your cancer has reached. 

Possible treatment options may be: 

  • Surgery 
  • Chemotherapy 
  • Radiotherapy 

After treatment you will be regularly monitored to see if the disease has returned or spread. 

Your specialist will also discuss whether you want to bank some of your sperm for the future should you wish to start a family. 

Where can I find out more?

There are many excellent resources available to find out more about Testicular Cancer. Please see the below websites for more information that has been fact checked as accurate and up to date. 

This article was produced by Liz Baugh, Lead Medical Consultant for Red Square Medical 

Liz Baugh, Red Square Medical

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