The first symptom of testicular cancer is usually a lump on one of your testicles or a swollen testicle. Testicular cancer may also be found before it causes symptoms, such as during tests for unrelated conditions.

Testicular cancer affects about 1 in 250 people assigned male at birth. Most people are between the ages of 15 to 49 when they’re diagnosed.

The outlook for testicular cancer is usually excellent when caught early. And according to the American Cancer Society, most testicular cancers are diagnosed early, before they have spread.

The 5-year relative survival rate for people with early stage testicular cancer — that has not spread beyond the testicles — is 99%.

A relative survival rate gives you an idea of how long someone with a specific condition may live after their diagnosis compared with someone without the condition. For example, a 5-year relative survival rate of 99% means that someone with that condition is 99% as likely to live for 5 years as someone without the condition.

Performing regular self-examinations at home can help you discover testicular cancer when it’s easiest to treat. It’s critical to visit a doctor right away when you notice a change in the shape, size, or texture of one of your testicles.

Read on to learn more about the early signs and symptoms of testicular cancer.

The first symptom of testicular cancer is most often a painless lump on one of your testicles or a swollen testicle. According to the National Health Service, the swelling or lump can be the size of a pea or larger.

Sometimes testicular cancer can cause pain or be tender to touch.

Other potential early signs of testicular cancer include:

  • increased firmness in a testicle
  • pain or tightness in your lower abdomen or scrotum
  • a noticeable change to one side of your scrotum

Less commonly, testicular cancer is discovered during routine testing for another condition before it causes symptoms. For example, it may be discovered during an imaging test for infertility.

Later testicular cancer symptoms

If your testicular cancer spreads to other parts of your body, it can cause symptoms such as:

Less common symptoms

Rarely, testicular cancer can lead to breast growth or soreness due to the secretion of beta-human chorionic gonadotropin (beta-HCG) by cancer cells. This chemical is usually found in the blood and urine of pregnant people.

A type of testicular cancer called Leydig cell tumors can stimulate breast development and decrease sex drive due to increased estrogen levels. These tumors only make up about 1% to 3% of testicular cancer.

Some Leydig tumors can also produce male sex hormones that can cause early puberty in people assigned male at birth.

Is testicular cancer a slow or fast-growing cancer?

The outlook for testicular cancer is excellent compared to many other cancers. The 5-year relative survival rates of testicular cancer isolated to the testicle and testicular cancer, generally, are 99% and 95%, respectively, as per the American Cancer Society.

Some subtypes of testicular cancer grow faster than others. A type of tumor called embryonal carcinoma tends to grow rapidly and quickly spread beyond the testicles. They make up only about 3% to 4% of testicular cancers.

Some other types, like mature teratomas and Leydig tumors, rarely spread beyond the testicles.

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Testicular cancer primarily affects young adults. The average age of diagnosis is about 33, and only about 8% of people diagnosed are over the age of 55.

The majority of people with testicular cancer don’t have any known risk factors. Risk factors can include:

Routine medical screening isn’t performed for testicular cancer. A fair amount of research suggests that screening would not lead to decreased death rates due to the high efficiency of testicular cancer treatment.

Many doctors recommend performing testicular self-exams once a month, starting at puberty. The best time to perform a self-exam is after getting out of a bath or shower.

You can perform the exam by putting one of your testicles between the thumbs and fingers of both hands, rolling your testicle through your fingers carefully, and then repeating on the other side. You should look for lumps or any changes in your testicle from your last exam.

Learn more about how to perform a testicular cancer self-examination.

Symptoms that warrant a visit to a doctor

It’s crucial to visit your doctor if you notice a bump, swelling, or any other changes to your scrotum or testicles.

It’s normal for one of your testicles to hang lower or be slightly larger than the other. It’s important to establish what’s normal for you by performing regular self-examinations so you can easily notice changes.

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A doctor will consider your symptoms and likely perform a physical exam. If they suspect testicular cancer, the first test they order is usually an ultrasound. An ultrasound can help identify whether the lump is cancer or if it has a noncancerous cause.

Your doctor will likely also take blood tests to measure levels of tumor markers that can help support the diagnosis. The main tumor markers for testicle cancer are:

Learn more about tumor markers for testicular cancer.

If an ultrasound and blood test both suggest cancer, the next step is usually to remove your testicle for lab testing.

The most common early symptom of testicular cancer is swelling or a lump in one of your testicles. Testicular cancer is sometimes found during testing for other conditions.

Regular screening isn’t generally performed for testicular cancer. Performing self-examinations each month can help you find testicular cancer in the early stages when it’s easiest to treat.