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Testicular Cancer (Cancer of the Testicle)

Testicular cancer facts*

*Testicular cancer facts medical author: Charles P. Davis, MD, PhD

  • Testicular cancer is a disease when testicular cells become abnormal (malignant) in one or both testicles. It is the most common cancer in 20- to 35-year-old men and has two main types, seminomas and nonseminomas.
  • The exact cause of testicular cancer is not known but risk factors include undescended testicle(s), congenital abnormalities (for example, kidney, penile abnormalities), and history of testicular cancer (for example, family history or personal history of testicular cancer in one testicle) and being white.
  • Testicular cancer is often first detected by the patient discovering a lump or swelling in a testicle; other symptoms include testicular pain or discomfort; testicular enlargement; aches in the abdomen, back, or groin; or a fluid collection in the scrotum.
  • Testicular cancer is diagnosed by the patient's history and physical, ultrasound, and blood tests that measure testicular tumor markers. Biopsy of testicular tissue may be done.
  • Testicular cancer can be cured by surgery, radiation therapy and/or chemotherapy; side effects include infertility and treatments may affect sexual function. Other side effects are due to radiation and chemotherapy.
  • Staging helps determine cancer spread in the body. Chest X-rays, CT, MRI, and PET scans, plus serum tumor markers and abdominal lymph node dissection, may help determine the stage of testicular cancer.
  • Testicular cancer has four stages, ranging from 0 to III. (Stage III is the most advanced cancer stage.) Some stages have sub-stages (for example, stages IA and IB) based on where the testicular cancer has spread.
  • Recurrent testicular cancer is cancer that has come back after treatment.
  • Treatments vary with the type and stage of the testicular cancer. Five types of standard treatments are used: surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, surveillance, and high-dose chemotherapy with stem cell transplant.
  • Clinical trials (clinical research) may be another treatment choice for some patients.
  • Treatment options for testicular cancers according to stage are outlined for all four stages.
  • Follow-up treatment is necessary because testicular cancer may recur. Follow-up treatment may involve regular blood tests and possibly CT scans.
  • Treatment options for recurrent testicular cancer may include combination chemotherapy, high-dose chemotherapy and stem cell implant, surgery, and/or clinical trials.
  • Prognosis depends on the cancer stage, type, size, and number plus size of retroperitoneal lymph nodes.
  • Testicular cancer treatment can cause infertility. Patients may consider sperm banking (freezing sperm and storing it) if they want children after their testicular cancer treatment.

What is testicular cancer?

Testicular cancer is a disease in which malignant (cancer) cells form in the tissues of one or both testicles.

The testicles are 2 egg-shaped glands located inside the scrotum (a sac of loose skin that lies directly below the penis). The testicles are held within the scrotum by the spermatic cord, which also contains the vas deferens and vessels and nerves of the testicles.

The testicles are the male sex glands and produce testosterone and sperm. Germ cells within the testicles produce immature sperm that travel through a network of tubules (tiny tubes) and larger tubes into the epididymis (a long coiled tube next to the testicles) where the sperm mature and are stored.

Almost all testicular cancers start in the germ cells. The two main types of testicular germ cell tumors are seminomas and nonseminomas. These 2 types grow and spread differently and are treated differently. Nonseminomas tend to grow and spread more quickly than seminomas. Seminomas are more sensitive to radiation. A testicular tumor that contains both seminoma and nonseminoma cells is treated as a nonseminoma.

Testicular cancer is the most common cancer in men 20 to 35 years old.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 11/28/2016



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