What are the Testes?
Along with the penis, the testicles are part of the male reproductive system. The testes are also considered part of the urogenital tract in males because of their physical connection to the prostate through the vas deferens. Each testicle is a reproductive gland that is responsible for producing sperm and the hormone testosterone. Men have two testicles (testes) which are located inside the scrotum. Immediately beneath is a muscular layer which contracts or expands with the surrounding temperature to keep the testes at a constant temperature (slightly lower than body temperature) which is necessary for the production of sperm. Approximately 98-99% of ejaculate (semen) is produced by the prostate gland. The remaining 1% of ejaculate consists of sperm that is produced by the testicles.
Disorders of the testes and scrotum include:
Infections of the testes and its neighboring structure, the epididymis, are common and are generally treated with scrotal support, limited activity, and antibiotics.
A hydrocele is a fluid-filled sac that surrounds a testicle. Usually, a hydrocele will only affect one testicle, however, it can involve both. Hydroceles are often painless, but they may grow large enough to cause discomfort. Hydroceles most often occur in male infants, but they can also develop in adult men. For infants, they will generally subside without treatment. In either case, needle or surgical drainage can be done.
One of the more common masses felt in the scrotum is a varicocele. Varicoceles are enlarged veins in the scrotum, much like varicose veins in the legs. Varicoceles are most common on the left side, and occur in about 15% of all men. The majority of men have no problems with a varicocele, however, they can contribute to problems with fertility and testicular growth. Varicocles are treated surgically when infertility or poor testicular growth is evident.
A spermatocele is a fluid-filled benign cyst that can grow in tubes located above the testicles. As part of the epididymis, these tubes are responsible for transporting sperm. This cyst is generally caused by a weak spot in the transportation from the testes to the epididymis through the rete tubules.
The most serious disease of the testes is testicular cancer. Testicular cancer primarily affects teens and younger men, with the average age of diagnosis being 33 years old. However, it can also develop in older men. Statistics reported by the American Cancer Society state that approximately 1 in 250 men will develop testicular cancer during their lifetime. As a comparison, statistics show that 1 in 7 men will develop prostate cancer. Considering these numbers, testicular cancer is not nearly as common. A tumor (cancer) of the testicle is usually painless and often shows itself by a fast enlargement of the testicle. It is an aggressive cancer which grows quickly. Consequently, young men should routinely exam their testicles to locate any abnormal masses. The recommended age to start monthly self-checks of the testicles is about 15. An ideal way to check is during a shower. The scrotum is looser and the testicles easier to feel in this warm environment. Additionally, the shower is a convenient and private place to perform self-exams. If an abnormal mass is located, men are advised to call Urology Austin to seek immediate medical attention.