Finding Out You Have Testicular Cancer
(cancer of the testicles) accounts for
only 1 percent of the cancers in men, but it’s the most common type of cancer
for men in the 20 to 34 age group. Testicular cancer is highly curable if it is
Who’s at risk?
The following factors put men at increased risk of
- Undescended testicle (a testicle that did not go into
the scrotum before birth). Even if a man has had surgery to move the testicle
into the scrotum, the risk is still there.
- Abnormal development of the testicles.
- Klinefelter’s syndrome (a chromosomal disorder that
causes men to have lower levels of male hormones)
- Personal history of testicular cancer
- Family history of testicular cancer
What are the symptoms?
It’s usually men themselves who find their own testicular
cancer, although at times a doctor discovers it during a routine physical.
- Painless lump or swelling in the testicle
- Enlargement in the testicle, or a change in the way it
- Heavy feeling in the scrotum
- Ache in the lower abdomen, back or groin
- Collection of fluid in the scrotum
- Pain or discomfort in the testicle or scrotum
What does treatment usually involve?
Most men who have testicular cancer are able to be cured
with surgery and radiation and/or chemotherapy. As with just about any cancer,
the earlier the tumor is found, the less aggressive the treatment needs to be.
Treatment consists of:
► Removal of testicle: Almost every man who
finds out he has testicular cancer will have a surgical procedure to remove the
cancerous testicle. Surgeons make an incision in the groin to perform this
procedure. It’s important for men to know that having one testicle removed
- Does not cause inability to have sexual
- Does not cause sterility, or inability to have
children. If you still feel worried about that, talk with your doctor about
preserving some of your sperm ahead of time.
If the loss of a testicle bothers you, talk with your
doctor about having a prosthesis implanted in your scrotum. This will have the
normal look and feel of a testicle.
► Removal of lymph nodes in the abdomen: Most
of the time, your surgeon will remove lymph nodes deep in the abdomen to see
whether the cancer has spread. This helps determine what your further treatment
Sometimes, removal of a lymph node can affect your ability
to ejaculate. Be sure to talk with your surgeon about special techniques that
can increase the chances that you will continue to be able to ejaculate.
radiation treatment, high-energy X-rays kill cancer
cells and shrink tumors in the affected area. Common side effects of radiation
- Feeling very tired
- Changes in the skin where the radiation is given
- Loss of appetite
Radiation can interfere with the production of sperm, but
for most patients, sperm production returns to normal after 1 to 2 years.
In most cases, if your cancer has spread outside the
testicle, chemotherapy will be part of your treatment. This is the use of
anti-cancer drugs to kill cancer cells throughout your body. Chemotherapy is
generally injected into a vein. Side effects differ, depending on the particular
drug you receive and the dosage. They can include:
- Hair loss
- Feeling extremely tired
- Mouth sores
- Skin rash
Be sure to tell your doctor about any side effects you
experience, because there may be medications that can help control them.
Stem cell transplant
If your cancer is in an advanced stage or if it has
recurred, your doctor may recommend a stem cell transplant along with high doses
of chemotherapy. First the cells that form the blood—blood-forming stem
cells—are removed and frozen, because otherwise the chemotherapy would destroy
them. Your doctor replaces the stem cells after the chemotherapy is complete.
Follow-up after treatment is crucial
Testicular cancer, like other cancers, can recur, so it’s
important to see your doctor regularly and report any unusual symptoms right
away. Most patients have regular blood tests to measure tumor marker levels.
Regular CT scans, which give detailed images of what’s going on in areas inside
your body, are generally routine as well.
The American Cancer
Society; The National Cancer Institute;