Rare Classroom: Testicular Cancer

Welcome to the Rare Classroom, a new series from Patient Worthy. Rare Classroom is designed for the curious reader who wants to get informed on some of the rarest, most mysterious diseases and conditions. There are thousands of rare diseases out there, but only a very small number of them have viable treatments and regularly make the news. This series is an opportunity to learn the basics about some of the diseases that almost no one hears much about or that we otherwise haven’t been able to report on very often.

Eyes front and ears open. Class is now in session.

The rare disease that we will be learning about today is:

Testicular Cancer


What is Testicular Cancer?

  • Testicular cancer is a malignant tumor that develops in the testicles, a vital part of the male reproductive system.
  • The most common type of testicular cancer are germ cell tumors, categorized as nonseminomas and seminomas; though other types are possible
  • While outcomes are better when the cancer is localized, testicular cancer can be treated quite effectively, with a cure rate of around 80 percent with chemotherapy
    • However, treatment may result in infertility
  • Diagnosis is achieved through physical exam, blood tests, and ultrasound

How Do You Get It?

  • The biggest risk factor for testicular cancer is cryptorchidism (undescended testicle)
  • Research also suggests that the presence of a tumor can contribute to cryptorchidism
  • Other potential risk factors can include:
  • Testicular cancer is more common in the developed world, and some research has linked testicular cancer to cannabis use
  • The cancer is most likely to develop in men between ages 20-34

What Are The Symptoms?

  • Symptoms of testicular cancer include:
    • A lump or swelling in the testicle, typically the first sign of the disease
    • Pain in the scrotum or lower abdomen
    • Lower back pain
    • Heaviness or weight in the scrotum
    • Breast enlargement
    • Firmness of the testicle

How Is It Treated?

  • Standard treatment for testicular cancer includes surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy
  • The initial treatment for testicular cancer is removal of the affected testicle, which is also useful for determining the cancer type.
    • Surgical removal of the entire testicle is most typical, as removing the tumor alone leaves the possibility of a new tumor reappearing
      • This is due to the presence of pre-cancerous cells in the testicle outside of the tumor itself
  • Due to the risk of spreading, testicular cancer is typically treated with radiation therapy or chemotherapy following surgery
    • The type of therapy selected is usually based on tumor characteristics and the rate of progression
  • The introduction of platinum-based chemotherapies such as carboplatin and cisplatin in the 1970s was a breakthrough in treatment
    • Before this time, survival rates were low; today, the five year survival rate in the US is around 95 percent

Where Can I Learn More???

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