What is testicular cancer?
Testicular cancer occurs in the testicles (testes), which are two glands located inside the scrotum, a sac of loose skin below the penis. The testicles make the hormone called testosterone as well as sperm.
There are two main kinds of testicular tumors: seminomas and non-seminomas. Seminomas appear more often in older men. Non-seminomas tend to develop earlier in life. They also grow and spread quicker than seminomas do.
Testicular cancer is rare, but is still the most common type of cancer to appear in men between ages 15 and 35. There are some risk factors that can increase your chance of getting testicular cancer, including: having had an undescended testicle, abnormal development of the testicles, a family history of testicular cancer, and a personal history of testicular cancer. Some research also indicates that white males are more likely to get testicular cancer than non-white males.
What are the symptoms of testicular cancer?
Testicular cancer usually affects only one testicle, so it is not unusual for symptoms to only appear in one.
- A lump in the testicle
- Swelling in the testicle
- Pain in the testicle
- Heavy feeling in the scrotum
- Ache in abdomen or groin
- Sudden collection of fluid in the scrotum
- Back pain
- Enlargement and/or tenderness of the breasts
What causes testicular cancer?
Normal, healthy cells grow at a steady rate, and die at a set time. However, sometimes healthy cells develop abnormalities; they grow and multiply at an out of control rate, and take much longer to die. This leads to an accumulation of the bad cells, which forms a mass in the testicle. Almost all testicular cancers begin in the germ cells, the cells in the testicles that produce immature sperm. As of now, the exact cause of abnormalities in the germ cells is unknown.
How is testicular cancer diagnosed?
Patients can often discover testicular cancer themselves, either unintentionally or while doing a self-examination of the testicles to check for lumps. Otherwise, it can be diagnosed using the following procedures:
- Routine physical exam
- Blood tests
- Serum tumor marker test
After diagnosis, the next step is to stage the cancer, or determine the extent of it. Doctors may use CT scans and blood tests to determine whether the cancer has spread outside of the testicle.
The stages of testicular cancer are:
- Stage I: Cancer is only in the testicle.
- Stage II: Cancer has spread to the lymph nodes in the abdomen.
- Stage III: Cancer has spread to other parts of the body. The most common places are the lungs and liver.
What are the treatments for testicular cancer?
Some treatment for testicular cancer can cause infertility, so it is important to discuss treatment options with your physician thoroughly. Treatment includes but is not limited to:
- Radiation therapy
Where can I find out more about testicular cancer?