How is it treated?
Testicular cancer can almost always be cured if it's found early. How it is treated depends on the type and stage of the cancer, the man's age and general health, and other factors. The main treatments for testicular cancer are surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy.
Surgery is the most common treatment for testicular cancer. A surgeon will remove the affected testicle through an incision in the abdomen. This is called an inguinal orchiectomy. The surgeon may also need to remove lymph nodes located deep in the abdomen. With this surgery, there is a risk of damaging the nerves that control ejaculation. Doctors now have a nerve-sparing surgery technique to lower this risk.
In the past, everyone with testicular cancer had some other treatment along with surgery. Now, doctors have a better understanding of how the disease spreads and how to treat it. In some cases, men with stage I cancer (confined to the testicle) may not need any more treatment after surgery. Instead, they may have regular checkups and testing to catch the cancer early if it comes back. This helps them avoid the side effects caused by radiation and chemotherapy.
Radiation therapy uses high-energy x-rays to kill cancer cells. This is a local treatment, meaning it affects only the cells in the treated area. It may be used to kill cancer cells in the lymph nodes
Whether radiation is used may depend on the type of cancer:
- Seminomas are highly sensitive to radiation. Men with seminomas may have radiation therapy after surgery.
- Nonseminomas are much less sensitive to radiation, so men with this type of cancer usually do not undergo radiation.
Chemotherapy uses powerful drugs to kill cancer cells. Chemo is a systemic treatment, meaning it travels throughout the body by way of the bloodstream. Its use is recommended if there are signs that the cancer has spread beyond the testicles. It may also be used to kill any cancer cells that may remain in the body after surgery.
Treatments for testicular cancer may affect sexual function and fertility. A man should discuss these issues with his doctor before he starts treatment.
Created on 09/26/2008
Updated on 06/15/2011
- Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. Testicular cancer (germ cell tumors).
- American Cancer Society. Testicular cancer overview.
- Ryan CJ, Small EJ, Torti FM. Testicular cancer. In: Abeloff MD, Armitage JO, Niederhuber JE, Kastan MB, McKenna WG, eds. Abeloff's Clinical Oncology. 4th edition. Philadelphia, PA: Churchill Livingstone Elsevier; 2008.
- American Cancer Society. Overview: testicular cancer.