Testicular Cancer: The Basics
Testicular cancer is caused by cells in the testicle growing out of control. As the number of cells grow, they form into a tumor. Testicular cancer is classified as one of two types: seminoma, which accounts for 40% of all testicular cancers, and nonseminoma, which has four sub-types. Determining the type is very important to planning treatment, as they are treated differently.
Risk factors for developing testicular cancer include:
- 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. Men should examine their testicles monthly and any lumps or changes in the feel or shape/size should be reported to a healthcare provider.
Symptoms of Testicular Cancer
- 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 be also be signs of other issues and should be evaluated promptly by a healthcare provider.
Diagnosis of Testicular Cancer
When your healthcare provider suspects testicular cancer, they will order further tests, including:
- Blood tests.
- Imaging tests: Chest x-ray, CT/MRI scan of the belly, bone scan and PET scan.
- Surgery to remove the effected testicle which is 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 location of the tumor.
- Whether cancer cells are found in the lymph nodes.
- Level of serum tumor markers.
- Whether 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 varies based on the tumor type, how aggressive it is, and the stage. A second opinion can help you to learn more about your options. Your oncology team will help you determine 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 in some cases.
- 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.