Laurie LaRusso, MS, ELS
Testicular cancer is a disease in which cancer cells grow in one or both testicles. The testicles are a pair of male sex glands that make and store sperm. The testicles also make male hormones. They are located under the penis in a sac-like pouch called the scrotum.
There are 3 main types of testicular cancer:
Treatment will vary depending on the cell type.
Cancer occurs when cells in the body divide without control or order. Eventually these uncontrolled cells form a growth or tumor. The term cancer refers to malignant growths. These growths can invade nearby tissues including the lymph nodes. Cancer that has spread locally or invaded the lymph nodes can then spread to other parts of the body.
It is not clear exactly what causes these problems in the cells, but is probably a combination of genetics and environment.
Testicular cancer is more common in younger men (aged 25-35 years, but can appear during adolescence). It is also more common in Caucasians. Other factors that may increase your risk of testicular cancer include:
Testicular cancer may cause:
The doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history, and perform a physical exam. Tests may include:
Once testicular cancer is found, tests may be done to find out if the cancer has spread and, if so, to what extent. These imaging tests of the body may include:
The physical exam, combined with all test results, will help to determine the type and stage of cancer. Staging is used to guide a treatment plan. Testicular cancer is staged from I-III. Stage I is a very localized cancer, while stage III indicates a spread to other parts of the body.
Cancer treatment varies depending on the stage and type of cancer. It may involve multiple therapies. You and your doctor will decide the best treatment options for you. These may include:
requires removing the cancerous testicle. This is done through an incision in the groin. The surgeon may also remove nearby lymph nodes to check for metastasis.
is the use of radiation to kill cancer cells and shrink tumors. Radiation therapy for testicular cancer directs radiation at the scrotum, or other locations of the tumor, from outside of the body.
is the use of drugs to kill cancer cells. Chemotherapy may be given in many forms including: pill, injection, and via a catheter. The drugs enter the bloodstream and travel through the body killing mostly cancer cells, but also some healthy cells.
Men undergoing treatment should use condoms because changes in or damage to sperm cells can result in an abnormal fetus. This can also create pregnancy or birth complications. Other reproductive and sexual changes a man may experience include a decrease in sexual desire, and diffiiculty getting and maintaining an erection.
In addition to changes in or damage to sperm cells, other side effects can lead to male infertility. If you and your partner are planning a family, talk to the doctor before you start treatment. There are resources, such as spermmbanking, and treatments available to preserve fertility if undergoing chemotherapy so you can have your family after. Some options may also be available for children or adolescents depending on their stage of development.
If you were born with
undescended testicles, having surgery to correct this condition might reduce your risk of getting testicular cancer.
There are no current guidelines to screen for testicular cancer. The American Cancer Society recommends that men aged 20 years and older have a testicular exam during a routine physical and/or cancer-related checkup. Your doctor may discuss self examination techniques and how to detect changes. Talk to your doctor about your testicular cancer risk factors. If you are at a high risk for testicular cancer, your doctor may advise self examination and/or more frequent check-ups starting after puberty.
It is important to notify your doctor if you notice any testicular changes or other testicular cancer symptoms, including a lump or swelling.
American Cancer Society
Canadian Cancer Society
Cancer Care Ontario
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Testicular cancer—for patients. National Cancer Institute website. Available at:
http://www.cancer.gov/types/testicular. Accessed September 15, 2015.
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Last reviewed September 2015 by Michael Woods, MD
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