Testicular Cancer | Symptoms & Risk Factors | MedStar Health
A doctor consults with a male patient in a clinical setting.

What is testicular cancer?

As part of the male reproductive system, the testicles are two egg-shaped glands that produce and store sperm. They're also the male body's primary source of hormones. Cancer can develop when abnormal cells begin to multiply uncontrollably in the testicles. Though it accounts for only one percent of all cancer in men, this type of cancer is the most common cancer in young men.

Testicular cancer is a relatively rare disease but survival rates are high. Thanks to effective treatment options, most men with the condition can go on to live long, fulfilling lives, especially when it's caught early. At MedStar Health, our multidisciplinary team of cancer specialists work collaboratively to determine effective treatment options most appropriate for your cancer and preferences. With exceptional expertise in robotic-assisted surgery, we're experienced in performing minimally invasive surgeries that allow men to recover more quickly than traditional open surgeries.

Testicular Cancer

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Testicular cancer develops in the germ cells of one or both testicles and forms a tumor.

Testicular cancer symptoms and risk factors

What are the signs of testicular cancer?

Many men don't notice any symptoms of this cancer in its earliest stages. However, testicular cancer signs may include:

  • A painless lump or swelling in either testicle
  • Any enlargement of a testicle or change in the way it feels
  • A feeling of heaviness in the scrotum
  • A significant shrinking of a testicle
  • A dull ache in the lower abdomen or groin
  • A sudden collection of fluid in the scrotum
  • Pain or discomfort in a testicle or the scrotum

Men may experience other symptoms as cancer grows, such as unexplained weight loss, abdominal pain, leg swelling, or shortness of breath. All of these symptoms can be caused by cancer or by other conditions, so it's important to see a doctor as soon as you notice anything unusual to determine the root of the problem.

Who has an increased risk of developing testicular cancer?

Research shows that testicular cancer is sometimes linked to certain factors, including the following:

  • Having an undescended testicle or cryptorchidism (a testicle that has never moved down into the scrotum): Men who have undescended testicles are at higher risk of developing cancer of the testicle than other men whose testicles have moved down into the scrotum, even if they have had surgery to correct this.
  • Having a family history of testicular cancer: Men with immediate family members who have had testicular cancer may have an increased risk of developing the disease.

Screening and prevention

Can I prevent testicular cancer?

There are no formal guidelines for testicular cancer screening, and it's impossible to prevent this type of cancer altogether. However, there are things you can do to improve your chances of early detection. For example, we recommend men perform monthly self-examinations to check for signs of anything unusual. Testicular self-exams can easily be done in the shower. Knowing what your "normal" anatomy feels like will help you recognize testicular cancer signs. If you feel something firm, like a small marble, or notice any change in size or shape, you should talk to your doctor immediately. The earlier the cancer is detected, the easier it is to treat.

In addition, it's always a good idea to get an annual physical from your primary care provider. During your well-visit, your doctor can perform a physical exam and counsel you on health behaviors that will help promote your overall health.


Dr Andrew Satinsky and radiation technician Cierra Parker perform a scan on a patient at MedStar Southern Maryland Hospital Center.

Testicular cancer diagnosis

How is it diagnosed?

If you experience testicular cancer symptoms or your doctor detects something abnormal in the testicle, your doctor will typically order imaging and refer you to a urologist. At MedStar Health, we may use one or more of the following tests or procedures to determine a testicular cancer diagnosis:

  • Ultrasound of the scrotum
  • Blood tests for tumor markers
  • Abdominal CT scan
  • Chest X-ray
  • Surgery to remove the tumor tissue for further examination

Types of cancer

There are two primary types of testicular cancers.

The majority of these cancers begin in germ cells, which are the cells that produce sperm. Germ cell tumors are further classified into subgroups of testicular cancer, including:

  • Seminomas: Pure seminomas account for nearly half of all testicular cancers. Usually, seminomas are slow growing and tend to stay localized in the testicle for long periods.
  • Nonseminomas: Nonseminomas arise from more mature, specialized germs cells than seminomas, and they tend to be more aggressive.

Tumors can also develop in the scrotum, or area surrounding the testicles. These tumors are typically benign (noncancerous).

Testicular cancer treatments

Patients who choose MedStar Health for testicular cancer treatment benefit from the expertise of multiple specialists, not just one. Our urologic oncology team meets weekly in multidisciplinary tumor boards to review and plan treatment for each patient based on their unique cancer and needs. Treatment options vary by man and may include surgery, radiation therapy, and/or chemotherapy. In addition, we offer comprehensive support services designed to improve our patients' quality of life during and after treatment. 

Learn More About Testicular Cancer Treatment

Dr Michael Atkins confers with a colleague at the Lombardi Cancer Institute at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital.

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With multiple locations throughout the region, patients have access to many of the nation’s renowned cancer specialists offering high quality care, second opinions and a chance for better outcomes close to where they live and work. Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center, one of the nation’s comprehensive cancer centers designated by the National Cancer Institute (NCI), serves as the research engine allowing patients access to clinical trials that often lead to breakthroughs in cancer care.

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