Your family doctor or general practitioner should examine the testes during a routine medical examination. These exams usually take place once a year, so it’s important that men learn to perform a testicular self-examination (TSE) every month. However, if you suspect that you are experiencing symptoms of testicular cancer, you can first see your family doctor or general practitioner who can evaluate the problem. Your doctor will first check the testicle and scrotum for lumps or swelling while wearing a rubber glove. If the doctor suspects a lump, you will probably be referred to an urologist for further tests.
If necessary, your doctors will recommend that you see a specialist who can diagnose and treat testicular cancer. Medical professionals who specialize in treating or diagnosing testicular cancer include:
To help identify possible causes for symptoms, doctors first evaluate general health. The doctor will also perform a physical exam. A physical examination includes physical manipulation of the testes and scrotum to locate any firm lumps in one or both testicles. When a doctor holds a flashlight up to the scrotum, the light does not pass through the lump. Other tests that doctors use to diagnose and evaluate possible symptoms of testicular cancer include:
Biopsy - A biopsy is the microscopic examination of testicular tissue which can determine whether cancer is present, or not. Sometimes a sample of tissue from the testicle is removed through an incision in the groin, but most times an entire testicle is removed when cancer is suspected.
Blood tests - Blood tests are used to evaluate general health and how well the organs such as the kidneys are working.
Tumor markers – Another type of blood test looks for hormonal chemicals released by some types of testicular cancer into the blood. Raised tumor markers commonly indicate the presence of non-seminoma and mixed tumors. Tumor marker levels generally go down as you begin treatment and rise again if cancer comes back after the treatment is over. The three most common types of tumor markers are:
- beta human chorionic gonadotrophin
- lactate dehydrogenase
Ultrasound - An ultrasound exam uses sound waves to create a picture of the testicles and can confirm or exclude the presence of a solid lump or mass in the testes.
Urine tests - Urine samples are used to measure the function of other organs in the body and to evaluate general health.
Although there is no one definitive test to determine if you have testicular cancer, multiple exams can help you arrive at a diagnosis. However, once a diagnosis is made, the cancer needs to be staged. This requires more testing. To learn more about how doctors stage testicular cancer via testicular examination, read on.
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