health articles

Testicular Cancer

Testicular cancer affects more than two thousand men in the UK every year. It accounts for around 1 in every 100 cancers in men. It’s stressful if you notice a lump in your testicle but there are very effective treatments for testicular cancer. Early diagnosis and specialist referral can give you the best chance of a cure. The experienced GPs at Virtually Healthcare will provide expert assessment, sensitive support and prompt referral whenever necessary.

Testicular cancer care at Virtually Healthcare

Virtually Healthcare is an innovative GP practice that provides expert care in the comfort and privacy of your home. The Virtually Healthcare service fits with modern lives. Consultations are convenient and easy to access; virtual appointments are available seven days a week.

The highly-skilled team includes more than 40 clinicians working together to investigate and treat disease, and support you to improve your health and wellbeing. As well as experienced GPs, the team includes sexual health specialists, physiotherapists and practice nurses to offer a comprehensive primary care service.

During the pandemic, many patients are finding it more difficult to access healthcare, which is worrying if you are concerned about cancer. Virtually Healthcare offers rapid access video or telephone appointments; with consultations available the same day if you contact us before 3pm. Our clinicians can provide a quick, discreet assessment, arrange for a face-to-face appointment to examine your testicle, and arrange for an expedited specialist referral within two weeks if they are concerned about a potential cancer.


What is testicular cancer?

Testicular cancer is a disease in which cells in the testicle divide and multiply in an abnormal and uncontrolled way. The cells can multiply to form tumours. There are two main types of testicular cancer, both of which develop from the testicles germ cells which produce sperm. The cancers tend to affect men of different ages and may respond to different treatment regimes.

  • Seminoma: Seminomas usually affect men between the ages of 15 and 55 and account for 40-45% of testicular cancers.
  • Non-seminomas usually affect men between the ages of 15 and 35 and also account for 40-45% of testicular cancers. They include teratomas, embryonal tumours, yolk sac tumours and choriocarcinomas.
  • Rarer types of testicular cancer: Non-Hodgkin lymphoma can develop in the testicle. Rarer types of cancer include Leydig cell tumours and Sertoli cell tumours.

What are the symptoms of testicular cancer?

The most common symptoms of testicular cancer include:

  • A painless lump or swelling in the testicle
  • Pain, heaviness or discomfort in the scrotum

If the cancer has spread, either to the lymph nodes or to other parts of the body you may notice other symptoms:

  • Pain in the back, lower abdomen or groin
  • Weight loss
  • Malaise, fatigue and feeling unwell
  • Cough and breathlessness
  • Headache and confusion
  • Neck lump

All of these symptoms can be caused by other conditions, so there is no need to panic. However, it’s important to book an urgent appointment with one of Virtually Healthcare’s GPs.

How to check for signs of testicular cancer

Our experienced GPs recommend that you are aware of the look, shape and feel of your testicles throughout life, from puberty onwards. By being aware of your testicles and checking them regularly you’re more likely to notice any changes and abnormalities. The testicles should feel firm and smooth. It’s normal for one testicle to be slightly larger and for one to hang lower.

Testicular self-examination: Examine the testicles by holding your scrotum in your hand and using your fingers and thumb to feel each testicle in turn. Identify the epididymis, the soft tubular structure found behind the testicle. You may find that it’s easier to check after a bath or shower when the scrotum is likely to be relaxed. Look out for:

  • Lumps, swellings or areas of hardness
  • Any changes in the testicles
  • New differences between your testicles
  • New enlargement of a testicle
  • Loss of size in one of the testicles
  • Collection of fluid in the scrotum

Also note any new symptoms including pain, heaviness or discomfort

What should I do if I'm worried about testicular cancer?

If you have found a testicular lump or another abnormality, make an appointment with a doctor at Virtually Healthcare. They will provide timely assessment, advice and tests. The good news is that most lumps and swellings are not caused by cancer- but it is important you get your GP to check anything unusual as soon as possible.

Can I speak to a GP online about testicular cancer?

Virtually Healthcare can help whether you are worried about a testicular lump or stressed following a cancer diagnosis. The service is easily available remotely or in person, with all appointments free of charge on the NHS. You can speak to a GP online by video, or on the phone to access the support, advice and medical care you need.

How is testicular cancer diagnosed?

The doctors at Virtually Healthcare can arrange for referral to a specialist team for assessment and investigation. Initial investigations can include ultrasound and blood tests.

Scrotal ultrasound: Ultrasound scanning can be used to identify the position and size of any swellings. Ultrasound can also indicate whether the lumps is filled with fluid or solid in structure. Cancers tend to be solid, so the scan results can be an indication of whether the lump is benign or malignant.

Blood tests: Some chemicals in the blood increase as a result of testicular cancer. These tumour markers can be checked by blood tests such as alpha feto-protein (AFP) and human chorionic gonadotrophin (HCG). Another blood test, lactate dehydrogenase (LDH), can indicate the level of the cancer’s activity.

Orchidectomy: Doctors perform biopsies to diagnose many cancers, but this is not the case with testicular cancer. If the investigations show an abnormality suggestive of cancer, the surgeon will operate to remove the testicle. The tissue is sent for analysis to identify the type of cancer and any further treatment necessary.

Further investigations: The specialist hospital team will arrange investigations to check whether the cancer has spread. These can include chest X-ray and whole-body screening by CT or MRI scan.

How is testicular cancer treated?

Your hospital team will plan and coordinate your testicular cancer treatment. However, the doctors, practice nurses and physiotherapists at Virtually Healthcare will be there to support you throughout your cancer journey.

The treatment for your testicular cancer will depend on the type of cancer and the stage of the disease. It could include:

Orchidectomy: You will need surgery to remove the testicle as the first line of treatment. You may also need further treatment, to attack any cancer cells that have spread beyond the scrotum. Orchidectomy is surgery to remove the entire testicle, which gives you the best chance of making a full recovery. Your sex life and ability to have children should not be affected following the removal of one testicle.

Chemotherapy: Your oncology team may prescribe a combination of chemotherapy by mouth or intravenous injection. These powerful drugs can destroy any remaining cancer cells and prevent them proliferating and spreading.

Radiotherapy: Radiotherapy is a type of targeted X-ray treatment. High energy radiation is precisely directed at the affected area where it can kill cancer cells in the lymph nodes or elsewhere in the body.

Hot topics in testicular cancer care

Fertility following testicular cancer

Your ability to have sex and father children is usually unaffected following the removal of one testicle. Around 1 in 50 men can later develop a new cancer in their other testicle. If this happens, the surgeon may be able to remove part of the testicle to help maintain your fertility.

Some treatments for testicular cancer, including certain types of chemotherapy, can cause infertility. The chance of this is less than 50% if your other testicle is unaffected. In addition, some men with testicular cancer may have low sperm counts because of changes in the testicle. If you are concerned about your future fertility speak to your specialist team or one of the doctors at Virtually Healthcare, you may be able to bank sperm for use in later fertility treatment.

Cancer investigation and treatment during the pandemic

Too many patients have been worried about bothering doctors or afraid to access healthcare service during the pandemic.

There have been delays to many hospital treatments as a result of COVID-19, but we want to emphasise that the health professionals at Virtually Healthcare are ready to support you with all your healthcare needs.

We have designed a service that is quick, efficient and available in the comfort and safety of your own home. If you need a face to face appointment we will ensure that we follow all COVID safety guidelines. Urgent cancer investigations and treatments are still an absolute priority during the pandemic, so if you are concerned about symptoms make an appointment today.

Is talcum powder really linked to testicular cancer?

Talcum powder containing asbestos is potentially harmful and the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), which is part of the World Health Organization (WHO) classifies it as carcinogenic to humans. However, talcs widely available in the UK do not contain asbestos. Research on these has been mixed and there is no clear evidence of any link to cancer, however it is reasonable to avoid using it on the sensitive genital area

Is there a cure for AIDS?

Currently, there is no vaccination or cure for HIV and AIDS. However, early diagnosis and effective treatment can ensure you live a long, healthy life with the condition. If you are concerned that you have been exposed to HIV, an emergency treatment known as post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) within 72 hours may prevent infection.

If you are worried about HIV, Virtually Healthcare offers reliable testing in the privacy of your home. They will also provide support as you get your results by e-mail, phone call or in a face-to-face appointment.

Types of consultations we offer

We offer written, telephone and video consultations with a range of male and female clinicians from GPs, nurse practitioners, and primary care specialists such as physiotherapy.