Nine out of ten men who get testicular cancer had a lump on one or both of their testicles, a sure sign that something was wrong. For some, there were no symptoms and the disease was caught incidentally during the course of finding something else. Regardless of how a man finds out he has testicular cancer, there were a number of medical tests run to come to that definitive diagnosis.
The First Step A Physical
A doctor should take a comprehensive history of the man as well as his family history just in case there were some precursor risk factors evident. During the physical part of an exam, the doctor would check the testicles for any swelling, lumps or tenderness in the area. In addition, because some testicular cancer spreads, the doctor will likely feel along the abdominal area as well as the back for any lymph nodes that seem enlarged or tender.
Tumors in the testicles which can cause cancer often secrete high levels of special types of proteins. Therefore, blood tests can definitively pinpoint the presence of the proteins which signal the doctor that cancer could be present.
When the tumor is small, it will likely not secrete much of these proteins, so the presence of them in a blood test can indicate just how long the tumor has existed. Knowing the different kinds of proteins involved can help cancer doctors create a special treatment plan to target that specific type of disease.
Testicular Cancer Ultrasounds
Having a lump in the testicles does not always mean cancer but it is cause for concern. An ultrasound can show doctors whether the lump is a solid formation or one with fluid in it.
The ultrasound emits sound waves which bounce off the internal organs and the wand-shaped instrument which emits them also picks up the echoes as they bounce back. These echoes eventually form a pattern or shape so that doctors can see what is going on inside the body.
Tumors in the testicle area (as well as anywhere else in the body) will produce different types of echoes which allow the doctors to discern certain kinds of the growths. While ultrasounds are a good first or second line of defense, one cannot always tell when a growth is malignant or benign and therefore requires more tests.
Surgery is the typical option when a lump is found and it is not known whether it is cancerous or not. In some cases, a doctor will try a biopsy first to determine whether cancer is a factor in the growth. When the tumor or lump is cancerous, the surgeon will end up often removing the spermatic cord along with both the tumor as well as the testicle to be safe.
The biopsy is the preferred method by most men, especially if there is that slight chance the tumor or lump found is not cancerous. In the cases that it is, other tests are performed to determine whether or not the testicular cancer has spread to other body parts.
The x-ray is a common test which can show whether the cancer has spread to other areas like the lymph nodes, lungs and other chest areas. If the test looks normal, a CT scan also known as computed tomography, is performed.
The CT scan creates a cross-sectional look at the inside of the body and it is performed at various rotations. This gives doctors a full view of the body to look for cancer spots and tumors.
Usually a special dye is injected or something must be swallowed and allowed to flow in the blood stream so that the scan has something to contrast against. This allows the doctors to better look for cancer. MRIs (magnetic resonance imaging) manipulate magnets and radio waves to get a more in-depth look at the body, particular around the brain and spinal cord.
There are a variety of methods in which doctors can test and diagnose possible testicular cancer. However, the first part is making that appointment with the doctor to get an examination.