Health A-Z

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Your doctor will ask when you first noticed symptoms and whether they have worsened over time. He or she will examine the testicle and feel for swollen lymph nodes. Tell your doctor if you had an undescended testicle when you were born.

Your doctor may suspect that you have testicular cancer based on your symptoms or findings during the physical exam, such as a hard lump or area of tenderness. To determine whether a soft lump is solid or fluid filled, your doctor may shine a small flashlight on the lump to see if light travels through it.

The physical exam may be followed by

  • an ultrasound, which can be used to check for a mass or excess fluid inside the testicle.

  • magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or computed tomography (CT) scans, which use magnetic fields or x-rays to create images of the abdomen. Your doctor will check the images for abnormal masses and enlarged lymph nodes.

  • a chest x-ray, to seewhether the cancer has spread to the lungs.

If your doctor suspects that the testicle has turned and twisted off its blood supply, a special type of imaging scan may be done.

The best way to confirm the diagnosis of testicular cancer is to remove the testicle. This procedure is called an orchiectomy. The testicle will then be examined in a laboratory to determine whether cancer is present, and if so, what type. Blood tests also will be done to measure levels of tumor-marker proteins. These include

  • alpha-fetoprotein (AFP)

  • beta-human chorionic gonadotropin (beta-hCG)

  • lactic dehydrogenase.

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From Health A-Z, Harvard Health Publications. Copyright 2007 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College. All rights reserved. Written permission is required to reproduce, in any manner, in whole or in part, the material contained herein. To make a reprint request, contact Harvard Health Publications. Used with permission of StayWell.

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