For the media

The truth about testicular cancer

By The Health News Team | May 2, 2024
Man consulting with his doctor

Most men don’t even want to think about testicular cancer, let alone talk about it. Thankfully, testicular cancer is relatively rare and curable.

“About 1 out of every 250 males are diagnosed with testicular cancer, or approximately 9,800 men in the U.S. every year,” says Dr. Igor Medic, a board-certified oncologist and hematologist at Sharp Grossmont Hospital. “Although serious, it’s one of the most curable cancers, greater than 95% for all men when caught early.”

Testicular cancer develops when abnormal cells grow out of control in the testicles and crowd out normal cells. Also called testes, testicles are the two small male organs behind the penis that produce sperm and hormones. Over time, these cancer cells can also spread to other parts of the body.

There are no established testicular cancer screening methods, Dr. Medic says. Early identification and prevention are difficult, making it crucial not to ignore anything unusual and to check-in with your doctor if something doesn’t seem right.

5 myths — and their truths

According to Dr. Medic, there are several myths surrounding testicular cancer. Here, he shares the truth:


Only older men get testicular cancer.

Testicular cancer can happen at any age. However, it’s the most common cancer affecting males ages 20 to 35. One reason younger men are affected more than older men is that they are actively producing more testosterone and sperm, which could raise their risk.


Testicular cancer is not treatable or curable.

Testicular cancer is treatable and curable, but early detection is key and provides more options for treatment. According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), because this type of cancer is usually treatable, a man’s lifetime risk of dying from the disease is low — about 1 in 5,000.


Testicular cancer is symptomless.

Testicular cancer can cause a painless lump or swelling on the testicles that should be checked by a doctor immediately. When found early, a testicular tumor feels firm. It’s usually about the size of a marble but can grow much larger.

Some men don’t experience symptoms, Dr. Medic says, and research doesn’t necessarily support better outcomes through routine screening, clinical examinations or self-examinations. However, he recommends performing monthly self-exams. If concerning signs are detected, report them promptly to your doctor.

The ACS reports some men with testicular cancer experience the following symptoms:

  • Low back pain, due to cancer spreading to the lymph nodes in the back of the abdomen

  • Shortness of breath, chest pain or a cough that may develop if cancer cells spread to the lungs

  • Belly pain, either from enlarged lymph nodes or because the cancer has spread to the liver

  • Headaches or confusion due to cancer spreading in the brain


An injury or trauma to the testicles causes cancer.

Injuries to the testes aren’t related to the development of testicular cancer. But other factors are associated with higher risk of the disease, including:

  • Undescended testicles: One or both of the testicles can fail to descend from the abdomen, where they develop before birth, and into the scrotum, which is the thin, external bag of skin that holds and protects them. Surgical repositioning of the undescended testis, a procedure known as orchiopexy, may decrease the risk of testicular cancer.

  • A personal history of testicular cancer: Men who develop cancer in one testicle are at higher risk of developing cancer in the other testicle, although this occurs only about 2% of the time.

  • Family history of testicular cancer: Men with a family member who has testicular cancer or has had it in the past may face an increased risk of developing the disease.

  • Genetic disorders: Klinefelter syndrome, when a male is born with an extra X chromosome, and Down syndrome are associated with an increased risk of testicular tumors.

Other conditions potentially associated with an increased risk of testicular cancer include HIV infection, infertility and lifestyle factors. For example, some studies found the risk of testicular cancer was twice as high among men using marijuana on a regular basis.


If I have testicular cancer, I can pass cancer cells to my partner.

Cancer is not contagious, yet this is a common myth. Testicular cancer cannot be passed to a partner during sex or other close contact.

Learn more about men’s health; get the latest health and wellness news, trends and patient stories from Sharp Health News; and subscribe to our weekly newsletter by clicking the "Sign up" link below.

You might also like:

Get the best of Sharp Health News in your inbox

Our weekly email brings you the latest health tips, recipes and stories.