What is testicular cancer?
Testicles, also known as testes, produce sex hormones and sperm. These organs are within the scrotum, which hang beneath the penis. Testicular cancer is commonly only found in one testicle. While testicular cancer is rare in comparison to other forms of cancer, it’s the most common cancer affecting American males between 15 and 35 years old.
Even though the cause of testicular cancer is unknown, nearly all types of this form of cancer begin in germ cells, which are the cells that produce immature sperm. The two most common types of testicular cancer are:
- Seminoma can occur in all age groups, but it’s usually the form of testicular cancer commonly found in older adult males. Seminoma is usually not as aggressive as nonseminoma.
- Nonseminoma tends to develop earlier in life. It tends to grow and spread quickly. Among the types of nonseminomas are yolk sac tumors, embryonal carcinoma and choriocarcinoma.
Factors that can increase the risk for testicular cancer include:
- An undescended testicle (cryptorchidism)
- Family history of testicular cancer
- Abnormal testicular development
- Ethnicity (testicular cancer is more common in white males)
What are the symptoms of testicular cancer?
Testicular cancer symptoms include:
- A lump or swelling in either testicle
- Pain or discomfort in the testicles or scrotum
- Dull ache in the groin or lower abdomen
- Back pain
- Enlarged or tender breasts
- A feeling of heaviness in the scrotum
How is testicular cancer diagnosed?
After a testicular lump is found, either during a self-exam or a physical with a doctor, any of the following tests may be used for further diagnosis:
- Blood tests for elevated levels of tumor markers in the bloodstream
- Ultrasound uses sound waves to create an image of the testes and scrotum
- Radical inguinal orchiectomy is when the testicle suspected of cancer is surgically removed for analysis
After a diagnosis is confirmed, the stage of the cancer will be confirmed.
Testicular cancer stages are:
- Stage I is cancer within the testicle
- Stage II means cancer has spread to the lymph nodes in the abdomen
- Stage III cancer has spread to other body parts, typically, but not limited to, the lungs and liver
How is testicular cancer treated?
Testicular treatment options depend upon several factors, such as the stage and type of cancer, the individual’s overall health and preferences. Treatment options include:
The primary treatment for all kinds and stages of testicular cancer is surgical removal of the testicle. In some cases, aretroperitoneal, which is surgery to remove the lymph nodes surrounding the testicles, may be required to prevent cancer from spreading.
When surgery is the only treatment for cancer, follow-up appointments might be required every few months to ensure the cancer has not returned.
Radiation treatment uses a machine moving around the body to position high-energy beams to target and kill cancer cells. Radiation therapy is frequently used after surgery to kill any possible remaining cancer cells.
Radiation therapy is occasionally used for the treatment of seminoma. After a testicle is removed surgically, radiation therapy may be recommended.
Chemotherapy is often used to shrink a tumor before surgery or to kill cancer cells after surgery. Chemotherapy can also be the only treatment used for some cancers or may be used after lymph node removal.