Testicular diseases are uncommon...
However, they can be quite serious and at times life-threatening. As you might guess, testicular cancer is the most serious form of testicular disease and the most common cancer amongst men ages 18 to 35. More common than testicular cancer is epididymitis, and other testicular diseases that you rarely hear about.
Epididymitis or inflammation of the epididymis, is the tubular structure next to the testicles where the sperm mature. At times epididymitis is a result of a sexually transmitted infection. More common however, epididymitis results from a buildup of pressure such as after vasectomy, or urine backwashing into the tubules during heavy lifting or straining.
Epididymitis can cause mild symptoms such as irritation and pain to severe testicle pain and fever. Repeated episodes of the infection could potentially impact sperm quality and fertility if left untreated.
Orchitis is inflammation of the testicles resulting from an infection, mumps, or a STI such as gonorrhea and chlamydia.
Varicocele is another usually benign condition relating to the testicles, which refers to swollen and dilated veins above the testicles. On occasion, varicoceles can impair fertility and can cause mild to moderate pain, therefore should always be examined by a physician.
Hydroceles occurs when fluid begins collecting around the testicle(s). This is typically benign, but can cause pain or pressure and sometimes be symptomatic of other issues and therefore should be checked by a physician.
Testicular torsion literally means testicular twisting. When this occurs, the twisting causes kinks, like in a garden hose, which forms blockages in the blood vessels to the testicle. Some men have a congenital or developmental problem that can make them more prone to testicular torsion, making many physical activities a challenge. Although testicular torsion is rare, it is an emergency and requires immediate emergency intervention. If treatment is delayed, the testicle can die.
Hernias are sometimes mistaken for a testicular disease. This is in large part due to the lower portion of the abdominal wall muscles being weak and the lower part of the intestines can bulge through the scrotum forming a type of hernia referred to as an inguinal hernia. This causes the scrotum to swell due to trauma to the scrotum and thus causes the appearance of a testicular problem. The solution in many cases is surgery to repair the abdominal wall.
All men are at risk for prostate problems simply because all men have a prostate. The prostate is responsible for making the fluid necessary for semen.
Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia or BPH is also known as an enlarged prostate. This occurs when a man’s prostate grows to an unhealthy size, compressing the urethra, making urination difficult and if severe enough, can prevent urine from coming out. Only about half of men ever have BPH symptoms requiring treatment, however, if you are experiencing symptoms, it is recommended to consult a physician.
Prostatitis is inflammation or infection of the prostate often caused by bacteria. This is commonly referred to as a man’s urinary tract infection.
Radiation Therapy has the potential to harm sperm through degradation of the genetic material within the sperm. Although lead shields are used, radiation is sporadic within the body. Also if used on the brain, it may affect certain hormones within the body that control sexual urges and stimulation.
Chemotherapy can affect fertility by reducing the number of sperm produced or affect the sperms ability to fertilize an egg. Not all chemotherapy drugs can harm fertility, that is why it is necessary to discuss with your physician the side effects of your prescribed treatment.
Surgery on the prostate can harm the seminal vesicles, which create the liquid component of the semen produced, thus leaving the sperm unnourished and susceptible to harm.
There is always a possibility that your fertility can return after treatment with certain cancers and treatments. However, the best way to ensure safety of your genetic lineage is to preserve your sperm prior to treatment. The sperm is cryogenically frozen, and can be kept safe until future use is merited. It is always best to discuss your options with a fertility specialist, and to investigate the benefits of storing sperm.