What is testicular cancer?
Testicular cancer occurs when cells that aren't normal grow out of control in the Reference testicles Opens New Window (testes). It is highly curable, especially when it is found early.
The testes are the two male sex organs that make and store Reference sperm Opens New Window Reference Opens New Window. They are located in a pouch below the penis called the Reference scrotum Opens New Window. The testes also make the hormone Reference testosterone Opens New Window.
Testicular cancer isn't very common. It affects mostly young, white males between the ages of 15 and 35.Reference 1
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 nonseminomas. Seminomas grow and spread slowly and respond to radiation therapy. Nonseminomas grow and spread more quickly than seminomas. There are several different types of nonseminomas.
This topic covers seminoma and nonseminoma cancer. It does not cover non-germ cell testicular cancers, such as Leydig cell tumors.
What causes testicular cancer?
Experts don't know what causes testicular cancer. But some problems, such as having an Reference undescended testicle Opens New Window or Reference Klinefelter syndrome Opens New Window, may increase a man's risk for this cancer. Most men who get testicular cancer don't have any risk factors.
What are the symptoms?
The most common symptoms of testicular cancer include:
- A change in the size or shape of one or both testes. You may or may not have pain.
- A heavy feeling in the scrotum.
- A dull pressure or pain in the lower back, belly, or groin, or in all three places.
How is testicular cancer diagnosed?
Because other problems can cause symptoms like those of testicular cancer, your doctor may order tests to find out if you have another problem. These tests may include blood tests and imaging tests of the testicles such as an Reference ultrasound Opens New Window or a Reference CT scan Opens New Window. These tests can also help find out if cancer has spread to other parts of your body.
How is it treated?
Nearly all men with testicular cancer begin treatment with surgery to remove the testicle that has cancer. Removing the testicle allows your doctor to find out the type of cancer cells you have. It also helps him or her plan any other treatment you may need.
Treatment after surgery may include Reference watchful waiting Opens New Window, Reference chemotherapy Opens New Window, or Reference radiation therapy Opens New Window. Chemotherapy is often used for cancer that has spread to other parts of the body. In some cases, surgery is used to remove that kind of cancer.
How will having testicular cancer affect you?
In most cases, removing a testicle doesn't cause long-term sexual problems or make you unable to father 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 father children.
Some men 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.
Finding out that you have cancer can change your life. You may feel like your world has turned upside down and you have lost all control. Talking with family, friends, or a counselor can really help. Ask your doctor about support groups. Or call the American Cancer Society (1-800-227-2345) or visit its website at www.cancer.org.
Frequently Asked Questions
Learning about testicular cancer:
Living with testicular cancer:
|By:||Reference Healthwise Staff||Last Revised: Reference October 22, 2012|
|Medical Review:||Reference E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Reference Christopher G. Wood, MD, FACS - Urology, Oncology