Is Testicular Cancer?
Testicular cancer is a cancer that originates in one or both
testicles, or testes. The testes are the male reproductive glands located
inside the scrotum, which is the pouch of skin located underneath the penis. Your
testes are responsible for producing sperm and the hormone testosterone.
Testicular cancer often begins with changes in the germ cells, which
are the cells in the testicles that produce sperm. Testicular cancer is
sometimes referred to as a germ cell tumor.
The two main types of testicular cancer are seminomas and
nonseminomas. Seminomas are testicular cancers that grow slowly. They’re
usually confined to the testes, but the lymph nodes may also be involved.
Nonseminomas are the more common form of testicular cancer. This type is faster
growing and may spread to other parts of the body.
Testicular cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in men
ages 15 to 35, but it can occur at any age. It’s also one of the most treatable
cancers, even if it has spread to other areas. According to the American Cancer
Society, for those with testicular cancer in early stages, the five-year
survival rate is greater than 95
percent. The survival rate is lower for those with more advanced stages of
Factors for Testicular Cancer
Risk factors are characteristics that increase your risk of
developing a disease. Risk factors for testicular cancer include:
- having a family history of the disease
- having abnormal testicular development
- being of Caucasian descent
- having an undescended testicle, which is called
of Testicular Cancer
Some men are asymptomatic when diagnosed with testicular cancer.
When symptoms do appear, they can include:
- testicular pain or discomfort
- swelling of the testicle
- lower abdominal or back pain
- enlargement of breast tissue
Make an appointment with your doctor if you have any of these symptoms.
Is Testicular Cancer Diagnosed?
Your doctor may use some tests to diagnose testicular cancer.
These may include:
- a physical exam, which can reveal any
abnormalities of the testicles, such as lumps or swelling
- an ultrasound to examine the internal structure
of the testicles
- blood tests called tumor marker tests, which may
show elevated levels of substances related to testicular cancer, like
alpha-fetoprotein or beta-human chorionic gonadotropin
If cancer is suspected, the entire testicle may need to be
removed to obtain a sample of testicular tissue. This cannot be done when the testicle
is still in the scrotum because doing so can cause cancer to spread through the
Once the diagnosis has been made, tests such as pelvic and
abdominal CT scans will be done to see if the cancer has spread anywhere else.
This is called staging.
The stages of testicular cancer range from stage 1 to stage 3:
- Stage 1 testicular cancer is limited to the
- Stage 2 testicular cancer has spread to the
lymph nodes in the abdomen.
- Stage 3 testicular cancer has spread to other
parts of the body. This type of cancer commonly spreads to the lungs, liver,
brains, and bone.
The cancer is also categorized based on the expected response to
treatment. The outlook can be good, intermediate, or poor.
There are three general categories of treatments used for
testicular cancer. Depending on the stage of your cancer, you may be treated
with one or more options:
- Surgery is
used to remove one or both testicles and some surrounding lymph nodes to both
stage and treat the cancer.
therapy uses high-energy rays to kill cancer cells. It may be
administered externally or internally. External radiation uses a machine that
aims the radiation at the cancerous area. Internal radiation involves the use
of radioactive seeds or wires placed into the affected area. This form is often
successful in treating seminomas.
- Chemotherapy uses
drugs to kill cancer cells. It’s a systemic treatment, which means it can kill
cancer cells that have traveled to other parts of the body. When it’s taken
orally or through the veins, it can travel through the bloodstream to kill
In very advanced cases of testicular cancer, high-dose chemotherapy may be
administered, followed by a stem
cell transplant. Once the chemotherapy has destroyed the cancer cells,
the stem cells are administered and these cells develop into healthy blood
of Testicular Cancer
Though testicular cancer is a highly treatable cancer, it can
still spread to other parts of the body. If one or both testicles are removed,
your fertility may also be affected. Before treatment begins, ask your doctor
about your options for preserving your fertility.