Testicular cancer is not generally in the news unless someone famous gets it. Actors and athletes, all in the public eye, have found their young lives turned upside down. Fortunately, in most cases, the cancer was caught early enough to for them to get back in the game.

The good news is that testicular cancer is relatively rare (about 1% of all male cancers). Even better, it is highly curable. In fact, if it is detected early, the 5-year survival rate is 85%-90%, but early detection in the key.

Most young people do not think about things like cancer. It is likely that if you are unaware of it, you are unlikely to take early signs seriously. This can lead to a delay in diagnosis and treatment. What does this mean for you? Whatever your age, learn about your risk for testicular cancer, how to detect it early, and how it is treated.

There is no definitive cause of this cancer, but there are certain factors that may put some men at higher risk. For example, men who were born with one or both testicles undescended are more prone to the disease. In fact, this condition increases the risk of testicular cancer four times. Other factors include a male relative with testicular cancer history, and infertility.

Testicular tumors almost always derive from the sperm-producing cells of the testes, called germ cells. The tumors here are almost always malignant. Unlike benign tumors, malignant tumors can invade and destroy the body's tissues and travel to other parts of the body. In advanced stages, testicular cancer can travel to the abdomen, the chest, or the brain.

There are two major classes of testicular tumors:

  • Seminomas—Tumors in this class grow more slowly.
  • Nonseminomas—These tumors tend to grow and spread more quickly.

The early signs of testicular cancer can be quite subtle. If you have regularly been checking your testicles, you will be familiar with their usual consistency. If you notice a change in the texture, you should consult a doctor. A tumor may sometimes feel like a pea-shaped lump, but be on the look out for any change or hardening of the tissue. Early tumors may or may not cause pain. Some men experience backache or pain and swelling in the breast.

In a more advanced case, there may be more serious symptoms, which may include pain and swelling of the testicles. If tumors have spread to other organs you may have widespread symptoms like coughing up blood.

Any unusual swelling, hardening, or mass in a testicle should be checked by a doctor. Although in many cases the symptoms are not caused by cancer, the chances of recovery from testicular cancer are much greater if a tumor is caught in its early stages.