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Testicular Cancer

Testicular Cancer

What is Testicular Cancer?

Testicular cancer is a type of cancer that starts in the testicles, which are the male reproductive glands responsible for producing sperm and hormones. It is relatively rare but can occur in men of any age, but it happens most frequently in aged 15 to 35. This type of cancer usually develops in one testicle but can sometimes affect both.

Types of Testicular Cancer

Testicular cancer can be classified into two main types: seminomas and non-seminomas. These types are based on the cells affected and their growth patterns.

1. Seminomas: Seminomas are a slower-growing type of testicular cancer. They arise from the cells of the seminiferous tubules in the testicles, which are responsible for the production of sperm.

Seminomas typically respond well to radiation therapy and tend to occur in men between their late twenties and early forties. They are highly treatable when detected early.

2. Non-seminomas: Non-seminomas are a group of faster-growing testicular cancers that include various subtypes such as embryonal carcinoma, yolk sac carcinoma, choriocarcinoma, and teratoma. Non-seminomas are more likely to occur in younger men, especially those aged 15 to 35. These cancers are more likely to spread to other parts of the body and may require a combination of treatments, including surgery, chemotherapy, and sometimes radiation therapy.

Symptoms of Testicular Cancer

Recognizing the symptoms of testicular cancer is essential for early detection and prompt treatment.

1. Lump or Swelling: A painless lump or swelling in either testicle is one of the most common signs of testicular cancer. This lump might be small or large and could feel firm or soft.

2. Pain or Discomfort: Some men may experience a dull ache or heaviness in the scrotum or lower abdomen. This discomfort might be constant or come and go.

3. Change in Testicle Size or Shape: Any noticeable change in the size, shape, or consistency of a testicle could indicate a problem.

4. Pain or Tenderness: Some men might experience pain or a sensation of pressure in the testicle or scrotum.

5. Fluid Accumulation: Accumulation of fluid in the scrotum can cause sudden swelling or discomfort.

Causes and Risk Factors

While the exact cause of testicular cancer is not always clear, several risk factors have been identified that might increase the likelihood of its development. These risk factors include:

1. Age: Testicular cancer is most commonly diagnosed in men between the ages of 15 and 35, although it can occur at any age.

2. Undescended Testicle: Men with a testicle that didn’t correctly descend into the scrotum (cryptorchidism) are at a higher risk of developing cancer in that testicle.

3. Family History: Having a close relative, such as a father or brother, with a history of testicular cancer increases the risk.

4. Personal History: If you’ve had testicular cancer in one testicle, you’re at a slightly higher risk of developing it in the other.

5. Abnormal Testicle Development: Certain conditions like Klinefelter syndrome can lead to abnormal testicle development and increase cancer risk.

6. Race and Ethnicity: Testicular cancer is more common in white men than men of other racial backgrounds.

7. HIV Infection: Men with HIV or other conditions that weaken the immune system might be at an increased risk.

8. Carcinoma In Situ: This condition is a precursor to testicular cancer and raises the risk of its development.

Men with one or more of these risk factors should perform testicular self-exams regularly, as it is one of the best ways to detect cancer early.


Diagnosing this type of cancer involves a combination of medical evaluation, imaging tests, and laboratory analyses. Typically, this cancer is diagnosed by:

1. Physical Examination: Your healthcare provider will perform a thorough physical examination of your testicles, abdomen, and groin to check for any abnormalities.

2. Ultrasound: An ultrasound helps identify the presence, size, and characteristics of any lumps or masses.

3. Blood Tests: Blood tests measure specific tumor markers, such as alpha-fetoprotein (AFP), beta-human chorionic gonadotropin (β-hCG), and lactate dehydrogenase (LDH). Elevated levels of these markers can indicate the presence of testicular cancer.

4. Biopsy: In some cases, a biopsy might be performed to confirm the diagnosis. However, due to the risk of spreading cancer cells, biopsies are not often done before surgery to remove the affected testicle.

5. Orchiectomy: Removal of the affected testicle can be both a treatment and diagnostic test. Instead of a biopsy, the entire testicle is removed and examined.

Stages of Testicular Cancer

Staging is done to determine the extent so that treatment can be tailored. Testicular cancer is staged using a system called TNM, which stands for Tumor, Nodes, and Metastasis. This system assesses the size of the tumor, whether it has spread to nearby lymph nodes, and if it has metastasized to distant organs. The stages are typically divided as follows:

1. Stage 0 (Carcinoma in Situ): Abnormal cells are found only within the testicle and have not spread beyond it.

2. Stage I: Cancer is confined to the testicle and hasn’t spread to lymph nodes or distant sites.

3. Stage II: Cancer has spread to nearby lymph nodes in the abdomen or pelvis but not to distant sites.

4. Stage III: Cancer has spread to distant organs, such as the lungs, liver, bones, or brain, and may also involve nearby lymph nodes.


The treatment of this type of cancer depends on several factors, including the type of cancer, its stage, and your overall health. The primary treatment options include surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy:

1. Surgery (Orchiectomy): The most common initial treatment for testicular cancer involves surgically removing the affected testicle. This procedure, called an orchiectomy, helps determine the type and stage of the cancer and often provides a definitive diagnosis. Many men lead healthy lives with just one testicle.

2. Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy is often recommended if cancer has spread beyond the testicle or if there’s a high risk of recurrence, such as with Stage II or II or with non-seminomas.

3. Radiation Therapy: Radiation therapy uses high-energy beams to target and destroy cancer cells. It’s primarily used for treating seminomas or in cases where cancer has spread to lymph nodes.

Follow-Up Care

After completing the initial treatment, ongoing follow-up care is crucial to monitor your health, detect any potential recurrences, and manage any side effects of treatment. Follow-up plans are tailored to the patient’s individual needs. These may include:

1. Regular Check-Ups: You will have scheduled follow-up appointments with your oncologist or urologist. These appointments will consist of physical examinations, blood tests, and possibly imaging tests to monitor your progress.

2. Tumor Marker Monitoring: Blood tests may be conducted to monitor tumor marker levels, such as AFP, β-hCG, and LDH. Elevated levels might indicate a recurrence of cancer.

3. Imaging Tests: Periodic imaging tests like CT scans or X-rays may be performed to check for any signs of cancer recurrence or spread.

4. Lifestyle and Health Management: Your healthcare team will provide guidance on maintaining a healthy lifestyle, managing any treatment-related side effects, and addressing any emotional or psychological concerns.

5. Long-Term Health: Depending on the type and stage of cancer, your medical team will also discuss the potential impact of treatment on your fertility and provide guidance on family planning options.

Regular follow-up care allows for early detection of potential recurrence. Attending all scheduled appointments is essential, communicating any new symptoms or concerns to your healthcare team and maintaining a healthy lifestyle to reduce the risk of recurrence.

Testicular Cancer Self-Exams

Performing regular self-exams is a proactive way to detect cancer early and improve the chances of successful treatment.

Ideally, a self-exam will be done after a warm bath or shower so that the scrotum is more relaxed. To do the exam, gently roll each testicle between the thumb and fingers, feeling for any size, shape, or texture changes. You should be looking for any lumps, swelling, or hardness that is different from the other testicle. It’s normal for one testicle to be slightly larger or hang lower than the other. If you notice any unusual changes, such as a painless lump, discomfort, or any other symptoms, you should schedule an appointment with a physician.

Finding an abnormality doesn’t necessarily mean you have testicular cancer, as it could be a sign of another condition. However, it’s important to be evaluated promptly – the earlier a tumor is found and treated, the better.

Testicular Cancer in Children

Testicular cancer is relatively rare in children and adolescents. Treatment for children follows a similar path to adults, but special considerations are made since they are still growing and developing. The care team will typically include a urologist and a pediatric oncologist, who are experts in treating children with cancer and follow treatment protocols tailored to the unique needs of young patients.

The treatment for pediatric testicular cancer often involves a combination of surgery, chemotherapy, and sometimes radiation therapy. The goal is to effectively treat the cancer while minimizing the impact on the child’s growing body.

Families of children with this type of cancer can seek support from pediatric oncology teams, social workers, and support groups specializing in childhood cancer. These resources can provide valuable information, emotional support, and guidance to help families navigate the challenges of cancer treatment for children with cancer.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Can testicular cancer occur in children?

Yes, although rare, testicular cancer can occur in children. Pediatric oncologists specialize in treating children with cancer and develop tailored treatment plans considering the child’s unique needs in partnership with a urologist.

Can you live a normal life after testicular cancer treatment?

Yes, many men lead normal, healthy lives after successful treatment for testicular cancer. Regular follow-up care and maintaining a healthy lifestyle are important for long-term well-being.

Is chemotherapy used to treat testicular cancer?

Yes, chemotherapy is one of the treatment options for testicular cancer, especially if the cancer has spread beyond the testicle or has a high risk of recurrence.

How to check for testicular cancer?

Regular self-exams are crucial for early detection of testicular cancer. To perform a self-exam, gently roll each testicle between your fingers, feeling for any lumps, swelling, or changes in size or shape.

What does testicular cancer feel like?

Testicular cancer may present as a painless lump or swelling in the testicle. Other symptoms can include a dull ache, discomfort, or changes in testicle size or shape.

Is testicular cancer fatal?

When detected early and properly treated, the outlook for testicular cancer is generally positive, with high survival rates. Timely treatment dramatically reduces the risk of fatality.

Is testicular cancer genetic?

While there’s a higher risk if a close family member has had testicular cancer, most cases are not directly inherited. Genetic factors might sometimes play a role, but most occurrences are sporadic.

Can you have kids after testicular cancer?

Many men can still father children after testicular cancer treatment. However, treatments like chemotherapy might affect fertility. Some men opt to preserve their sperm before treatment if chemotherapy or radiation is necessary.

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