Testicular Cancer: The Basics
When cells in the testicle grow out of control, it is called testicular cancer. As the number of cells grow, they form a tumor. Testicular cancer is classified as one of two types:
- Seminoma: 40% of all testicular cancers,
- Nonseminoma: There are four sub-types. Figuring out the type is very important in planning treatment, as they are treated differently.
Risk factors for testicular cancer are:
- History of an undescended or abnormally developed testicle.
- History of Klinefelter’s Syndrome.
- HIV infection/immunosuppression.
- Caucasian race.
- Family history of testicular cancer.
There are no routine screening tests for testicular cancer. You should examine your testicles monthly. Call your healthcare provider if you feel any lumps, changes in the feel, or shape/size of your testicles.
Symptoms of Testicular Cancer
Symptoms may be:
- A painless lump or swelling in either testicle or a change in the way it feels.
- A feeling of heaviness in the scrotum.
- A collection of fluid in the scrotum.
- Pain or discomfort in the scrotum.
- Breast growth or pain. This is because of changes in hormone levels.
These can also be signs of other issues. If you have any of these symptoms, talk to your healthcare provider.
Diagnosis of Testicular Cancer
When your healthcare provider thinks you may have testicular cancer, they will order more tests, such as:
- Blood tests.
- Imaging tests: Chest x-ray, CT/MRI scan of the belly, bone scan and PET scan.
- Surgery to remove the affected testicle (called an orchiectomy).
Testicular cancer and its treatments can affect your ability to father a child. Talk with your provider before any treatment about your options to be able to father a child in the future.
Staging Testicular Cancer
To guide treatment, testicular cancer is "staged." The stages are based on:
- Size and of the tumor and where it is.
- If cancer cells are found in the lymph nodes.
- Level of serum tumor markers.
- If cancer cells are found in other areas of the body.
This information is combined to give a stage from 0-IIIC, with IIIC being the most advanced.
Testicular cancer treatment depends on the tumor type, how aggressive it is, and the stage. A second opinion can help you learn more about your options. Your oncology team will help you figure out the treatment that is best for you.
- Surgery: Removal of the affected testicle and, in some cases, area lymph nodes to see if the tumor has spread. Surgery may also be used after chemotherapy.
- Radiation: Radiation therapy may be used after surgery in seminomas to treat known disease or to prevent recurrence (the cancer coming back).
- Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy may be used after surgery to kill any remaining cancer cells and prevent recurrence. In some cases, high dose chemotherapy is given followed by an autologous stem cell transplant.
This article is a basic guide to testicular cancer. You can learn more about testicular cancer and treatment by using the links below.
American Cancer Society. (2018). Stages of testicular cancer. Taken from https://www.cancer.org/cancer/testicular-cancer/detection-diagnosis-staging/staging.html
American Cancer Society. (2018). Surgery for testicular cancer. Taken from https://www.cancer.org/cancer/testicular-cancer/treating/surgery.html
National Institute of Health: National Cancer Institute. (2021). Taken from https://www.cancer.gov/types/testicular/patient/testicular-treatment-pdq.