Testicular Cancer

Around 2,400 men are diagnosed with testicular cancer every year in the UK. Nearly half of these men are under the age of 35. Most men will be cured.

This section provides information on risks, how this disease is diagnosed and different treatments. If you are concerned about your health and want to talk about testicular cancer symptoms, do call our Orchid nurses who can guide you in the right direction.

What is Testicular Cancer?

Testicular cancer occurs when normal, healthy cells in the testicles start to reproduce uncontrollably. To watch a video explaining this please click here

  • 2,400 cases of testicular cancer are diagnosed in the UK every year.
  • Testicular cancer most commonly affects men between the ages of 15-45 and is the most common cancer in men aged between 25-49 in the UK (Cancer Research UK).
  • Nearly half of those diagnosed in the UK will be under the age of 35.
  • 95% of men will be alive 5 years after treatment.
  • Around 60 young men die of testicular cancer each year.

Whilst we at Orchid use the term ‘male cancer’ we recognise that this language might be dysphoric for the transgender and non-binary community affected by testicular cancer.

What are the Testicles?

The testicles are two small oval shaped organs, also known as the testes or gonads. They are the male sex glands which hang down behind the penis in the scrotum.

They produce both sperm and about 90% of testosterone, the male sex hormone. You can read more about testosterone here. They are located in the scrotum because sperm develops at a cooler temperature than inside the rest of the body.

The testicles start growing at around the age of 11-12 and by early adulthood reach their final size. It is quite normal for one testicle to be slightly larger than the other, although the size and shape should be roughly the same. It can also be normal for one to hang a bit lower than the other.

You can find out more about the testicles here.

Signs and Symptoms of Testicular Cancer

  • A small pea-sized lump attached to the body of the testicle. In the majority of cases, this lump may be painless.
  • Men  may feel a  dragging sensation, ache or pain (although this is more common in non-cancerous conditions) in their scrotum.
  • Breast swelling or tenderness (called gynaecomastia). This is rare but some types of testicular cancer produces a  hormone that can cause breast tenderness and discomfort.
  • Back pain caused by enlarged lymph nodes in the back.

Non-cancerous Conditions

It is reassuring to know that around 96% of abnormal testicular conditions (lumps and bumps) will not be cancerous but it is essential to get any condition checked by your GP at the earliest opportunity.


Epididymo-orchitis is particularly common in young men aged 15-30.

The testicles help produce sperm. The sperm move into the epididymis (a tube running behind the testicle) where they mature.

This condition where either the epididymis or testis, or both, become inflamed. This usually happens because of infection, either a urinary infection or a sexually transmitted disease (STI).

Swelling tends to occur quickly and is painful. It may take some weeks to fully settle. A two-week course of strong antibiotics will usually be prescribed.


Varicocele is thought to affect up to 15% of the male population and is most common in young men between the ages of 15 and 25. A varicocele is a collection of dilated veins in your scrotum similar to  varicose veins in the legs. These veins will be next to and above one or both testicles.

Varicoceles can vary in size and are usually not painful but may cause a “dragging” sensation.


The scrotum is a protective tissue sac which surrounds the testicles. A lubricating fluid inside allows the testicles to move freely. Excess fluid usually drains into the veins in the scrotum.

If the drainage route is affected by infection or trauma, fluid may accumulate and this is called a hydrocele. A hydrocele will often feel like a small fluid-filled balloon and can cause a chronic ache or discomfort.

Hydroceles can often be surgically repaired if they become problematic or too big.

Epididymal Cysts

Epididymal cysts are small, fluid filled cysts, which may contain semen. They are usually about the size of a pea but can be larger. They are smooth and spherical and tend to be found in the head of the epididymis. They are not cancerous and can be surgically removed if they become too big or painful.

To watch a video about these non-cancerous conditions, please click on the button below:

Watch Video

Get Checked Out

The signs and symptoms of testicular cancer can be similar to non-cancerous conditions.

Anything unusual, such as a lump or swelling in the testicles, needs to be checked by a GP. Most likely, it will not be testicular cancer but cancer still needs to be ruled out. Whilst 96% of abnormalities in the testicles are not cancerous, in rare circumstances some types of testicular cancer can progress quickly.

If a GP is unsure of the exact cause of an abnormality, they will usually request an ultrasound scan of the scrotum. The ultrasound scan and referral will usually be made on an urgent basis and the results should be available within a few weeks.

If testicular cancer is present, finding it early will greatly increase the chance of a cure. If it is not cancer, a doctor will be able to treat your condition more easily, improving your health, fertility and mental well-being.


Checking Your Testicles

It can be helpful for men to check their testicles regularly. This helps them to get to know what is normal for them and identify a potential problem.

Find out exactly how to check your testicles here.

Click here to view our 3 in 1 male cancer awareness z-card.

Speak to one of our nurses
0808 802 0010