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Testicular cancer occurs when cancer cells grow in the tissues of one or both testicles (testes). It is one of the most curable types of cancer.
The testes are the two male sex organs that make and store sperm. They are located in a pouch below the penis called the scrotum. The testes also make the hormone testosterone.
Testicular cancer is rare. But it is the most common cancer among young people with testicles.
Most testicular cancers start in cells that make sperm. These cells are called germ cells. The two main types of testicular germ cell cancers are seminomas and non-seminomas. Seminomas grow and spread slowly and respond to radiation therapy. Non-seminomas grow and spread more quickly than seminomas. There are several different types of non-seminomas.
One of the most common symptoms of testicular cancer is a lump or swelling in the scrotum that may or may not be painful. Also common are a heavy feeling in the scrotum and a dull pain or feeling of pressure in the lower belly.
If testicular cancer is suspected, your doctor will do tests. An ultrasound may be used to rule out other possible causes of a testicle problem. Blood or imaging tests may also be done. If these tests show signs of cancer, you will have surgery to remove the testicle. It will be checked for cancer.
Treatment for testicular cancer is based on the type and stage of the cancer and other things, such as your overall health. The main treatment is surgery to remove the testicle. This may be the only treatment you need. Sometimes there is treatment after surgery, such as chemotherapy or radiation therapy.
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Some things may increase your chances of getting testicular cancer. These risk factors include:
Most people who get testicular cancer don't have any known risk factors.
Common symptoms of testicular cancer include:
Sometimes these symptoms can be caused by other problems, such as a hydrocele or epididymitis.
Testicular cancer that has spread (metastasized) beyond the testicles and regional lymph nodes to other organs may cause other symptoms depending on the area of the body affected. Symptoms of late-stage testicular cancer may include:
In most cases, the first sign of testicular cancer is a change in the size or shape of one or both testicles (testes). Often this change doesn't cause pain, though pain may be present. If unnoticed or untreated, testicular cancer may spread (metastasize) to other areas of the body.
After you are diagnosed with testicular cancer, you and your doctor will start to plan your treatment. Nearly everyone who has testicular cancer has surgery. After surgery, you may have other treatments, if they are needed. This depends on your choices, the type of cells involved, and the stage of your cancer.
Testicular cancer is one of the most curable forms of cancer, especially during its early stages. If you have symptoms, see a doctor as soon as possible.
Call your doctor as soon as possible if you have any symptoms of testicular cancer, including:
Some early-stage testicular cancers are successfully managed with a "wait-and-see" approach after surgery. This option involves frequent examinations as well as blood tests and imaging tests to watch your condition. Surveillance may let you avoid the side effects from other follow-up treatments, such as chemotherapy and radiation therapy.
If testicular cancer is suspected, your doctor will do some testing. Tests can include a testicular ultrasound, which may be used to rule out other possible causes of an enlarged or painful testicle. Blood tests may be done to measure the levels of certain tumour markers in your blood. Or you may have a chest X-ray or CT scan of the chest, abdomen, and pelvis.
If these tests suggest cancer, you will have surgery to remove the testicle. It will be checked for cancer. If cancer is found, you may have other tests to find out the stage of your cancer.
Testicular cancer is not common. It is often first discovered by the person or a sex partner as a lump or an enlarged and swollen testicle. In the early stages of testicular cancer, the lump, which may be about the size of a pea, usually is not painful. Testicular cancer has a high cure rate.
The Canadian Cancer Society (CCS) recommends that all men should know how their testicles normally look and feel and that men should talk to their doctor if they notice any changes in their testicles.footnote 1
Monthly testicular self-examinations may be recommended for those who are at high risk for testicular cancer. This includes anyone who has a history of an undescended testicle or a family or personal history of testicular cancer.
Treatment for testicular cancer is based on the type and stage of the cancer and other things, such as your overall health. The main treatment is:
After surgery, you may need only active surveillance. Or you may have more treatment, such as:
For advanced cancer, treatment may include a stem cell transplant or a clinical trial.
Before you have surgery or any treatment for testicular cancer, talk to your doctor about sperm banking. Some cancer treatments can cause infertility.
Your doctor will talk with you about your options and then make a treatment plan.
Hospice palliative care is a type of care for people who have a serious illness. It's different from care to cure your illness, called curative treatment. Hospice palliative care provides an extra layer of support that can improve your quality of life—not just in your body, but also in your mind and spirit. Sometimes hospice palliative care is combined with curative treatment.
The kind of care you get depends on what you need. Your goals guide your care. You can get both hospice palliative care and care to treat your illness. You don't have to choose one or the other.
Hospice palliative care can help you manage symptoms, pain, or side effects from treatment. It may help you and those close to you better understand your illness, talk more openly about your feelings, or decide what treatment you want or don't want. It can also help you communicate better with your doctors, nurses, family, and friends.
Testicular cancer may be treated with:
In most cases, removing a testicle doesn't cause long-term sexual problems or make you unable to have biological children. But if you had these problems before treatment, surgery may make them worse. And other treatments for cancer may cause you to become infertile. You may want to think about saving sperm in a sperm bank. Talk to your doctor if you have any questions or concerns about sexual problems or whether you can have biological children.
You can choose to get an artificial, or prosthetic, testicle. A surgeon places the artificial testicle in the scrotum to keep the natural look of the genitals.
Some people use complementary therapies along with medical treatment. They may help relieve the symptoms and stress of cancer or the side effects of cancer treatment. Therapies that may be helpful include:
Talk with your doctor about any of these options you would like to try. And let your doctor know if you are already using any complementary therapies. They are not meant to take the place of standard medical treatment. But they may help you feel better and cope better with treatment.
Relationships take on new importance when you're faced with cancer. Your family and friends can help support you. You may also want to look beyond those who are close to you.
Remember that the people around you want to support you, and asking for help isn't a sign of weakness.
Your friends and family want to help, but some of them may not know what to do. It may help to make a list. For example, you might ask them to:
Places to turn for support include:
CitationsCanadian Cancer Society (2021). Finding testicular cancer early. Canadian Cancer Society. https://www.cancer.ca/en/cancer-information/cancer-type/testicular/finding-cancer-early. Accessed March 12, 2021.
Current as of: May 4, 2022
Author: Healthwise StaffMedical Review: E. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal MedicineKathleen Romito MD - Family MedicineChristopher G. Wood MD, FACS - Urology, Oncology
Current as of: May 4, 2022
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:E. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal Medicine & Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine & Christopher G. Wood MD, FACS - Urology, Oncology
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