What is testicular cancer?
Testicular cancer occurs when cells that aren’t normal grow out of control in the testicles (testes). It is highly curable, especially when it is found early.
The testes are the two male sex organs that make and store sperm. They are located in a pouch below the penis called the scrotum. The testes also make the hormone testosterone.
Testicular cancer is rare. But it is the most common cancer among young men.
Most testicular cancers start in cells that make sperm. These cells are called germ cells. The two main types of testicular germ cell cancers are seminomas and nonseminomas. Seminomas grow and spread slowlyand respond to radiation therapy. Nonseminomas grow and spread more quickly than seminomas.There are several different types of nonseminomas.
This topic covers seminoma and nonseminoma cancer. It does not cover non-germ cell testicular cancers, such as Leydig cell tumors.
What causes testicular cancer?
Experts don’t know what causes testicular cancer. But some problems, such as having an undescended testicle or Klinefelter syndrome, may increase a man’s risk for this cancer. Most men who get testicular cancer don’t have any risk factors.
What are the symptoms?
The most common symptoms of testicular cancer include:
- A lump or swelling in the scrotum that may or may not be painful.
- A heavy feeling in the scrotum.
- A dull pain or feeling of pressure in the lower belly or groin.
How is testicular cancer diagnosed?
Most men find testicular cancer themselves by chance or during a self-exam. Or a doctor may find it during a routine physical exam.
Because other problems can cause symptoms like those of testicular cancer, your doctor may order tests to find out if you have another problem. These tests may include blood tests and imaging tests of the testicles such as an ultrasound or a CT scan.
If these tests show signs of cancer, you will have surgery to remove the testicle. Surgery is the only way to know for sure if you have testicular cancer and what kind of cancer it is. This information also helps in planning any other treatment you may need.
How is it treated?
For some men, surgery to remove the testicle may be all the treatment they need. The type and stage of your cancer will help your doctor know if you need more treatment.
Treatment after surgery may include surveillance, chemotherapy, or radiation therapy. Chemotherapy is often used for cancer that has spread to other parts of the body. In some cases, surgery is used to remove that kind of cancer.
How will having testicular cancer affect you?
In most cases, removing a testicle doesn’t cause long-term sexual problems or make you unable to father children. But if you had these problems before treatment, surgery may make them worse. And other treatments for cancer may cause you to become infertile. You may want to think about saving sperm in a sperm bank. Talk to your doctor if you have any questions or concerns about sexual problems or whether you can father children.
Some men choose to get an artificial, or prosthetic, testicle. A surgeon places the artificial testicle in the scrotum to keep the natural look of the genitals.
Current as of: November 20, 2015
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review: E. Gregory Thompson, MD – Internal Medicine & Christopher G. Wood, MD, FACS – Urology, Oncology
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