Testicular cancer is a form of cancer that develops in the testicles. Testicular cancer typically affects men aged 15 to 35 years. When detected early, it can be treated successfully in more than 95% of cases.
While the cause of testicular cancer is not known, the following factors can increase your risk of developing the disease:
- Age - young men aged 15 to 35 years are at highest risk
- An undescended testicle, called cryptorchidism
- Klinefelter's Syndrome, where an extra X chromosome results in failure of the testicles
- Family or personal history of testicular cancer
- Race - Caucasian men are at higher risk
SYMPTOMS OF TESTICULAR CANCER
Most cancers of the testes are found during a self-exam or at an annual physical with your doctor. You may be able to feel a firm lump or mass in your scrotum, which may or may not be painful.
It is very important to talk to your doctor if you experience any pain or discomfort in the testicles or feel a lump during a self-exam. It’s also important to get in the habit of performing regular testicular self-exams so that you can become familiar with your body and notice any suspicious changes that should be examined by a doctor. Early detection and diagnosis of testicular cancer provides you with the best chance for successful treatment and long-term health.
HOW IS TESTICULAR CANCER DIAGNOSED?
If you or your doctor find a suspicious lump or mass in the scrotum or enlarged lymph nodes in the groin area during an exam, your physician may order an ultrasound of the testes, CT scan of the abdomen, a chest X-ray and blood tests to provide more information to make the most accurate diagnosis. Blood work will be ordered as alpha-fetoprotein and HCG (human chorionic gonadotropin) blood tests look for high levels of "tumor markers" that are produced by most testicular cancers.
WHAT TO EXPECT IF YOU’VE BEEN DIAGNOSED WITH TESTICULAR CANCER
In order for your physician to determine the best treatment, it’s important to first stage the cancer:
- Stage 1 - cancer is confined to the testicle
- Stage 2 - cancer has spread to abdominal lymph nodes
- Stage 3 - cancer has spread to lymph nodes or organs in other parts of the body
SURGICAL TREATMENT – THE GOLD STANDARD
The surgical removal of the testicles (radical inguinal orchiectomy) is the primary method of treatment and is usually performed after finding a testicular mass suspicious for cancer to ensure the best outcome. This is an outpatient procedure. Following the removal of the testicle, you may elect to have a saline prosthesis, similar to a breast implant, implanted into the scrotum to look and feel like a real testicle.
TREATMENT OPTIONS FOR ADVANCED TESTICULAR CANCER
If your doctor determines that your cancer is in the more advanced stages of the disease, surgery can be combined with additional treatment methods including:
- Chemotherapy - Drugs are given intravenously (IV), by mouth or by injections into a muscle to destroy any cancer cells that remain after surgery. This is done under the direction of an oncologist, a specialist in cancer chemotherapy.
- Retroperitoneal Lymph Node Dissection - If the cancer has spread to your lymph nodes or the diagnosis of the tumor is high grade or unfavorable, your doctor may perform this procedure to remove the affected nodes.
- External Beam Radiation Therapy – Previously the most common treatment for patients diagnosed with seminoma cancer, this therapy is utilized much less frequently today. External Beam Radiation Therapy involves high energy X-rays that are precisely targeted at any cancerous cells that have spread to the lymph nodes.