(Cancer of the Testicle; Cancer, Testicular; Seminoma; Germinoma)En Español (Spanish Version)More InDepth Information on This Condition
Testicular cancer is a disease in which cancer cells grow in one or both testicles. The testicles are a pair of male sex glands that make and store sperm. The testicles also make male hormones. They are located under the penis in a sac-like pouch called the scrotum.
There are three main types of testicular cancer:
- Nonseminomas (yolk sac, embryonal cell carcinoma, teratomas, and choriocarcinoma)
- Stromal cell tumors
Cancer occurs when cells in the body (in this case testicular cells) divide without control or order. Normally, cells divide in a regulated manner. If cells keep dividing uncontrollably when new cells are not needed, a mass of tissue forms, called a growth or tumor. The term cancer refers to malignant tumors, which can invade nearby tissues and spread to other parts of the body. A benign tumor does not invade or spread.
The causes of testicular cancer are unknown. However, research shows that certain risk factors are associated with the disease.
These factors increase your chance of developing testicular cancer. Tell your doctor if you have any of these risk factors:
- Personal or family history of testicular cancer
- Race: White
- Age: 25-35
- Abnormal testicular development, such as that seen in Klinefelter syndrome
- Undescended testicle that did not move down into the scrotum before birth
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If you have any of these symptoms do not assume it is due to testicular cancer. These symptoms may be caused by other conditions. Tell your doctor if you have any of these:
- A painless lump or swelling in either testicle
- For this reason, young men, who are at the greatest risk for developing testicular cancer, should regularly examine their testicles. The earlier a lump is discovered, the better the prognosis.
- Enlargement or swelling of a testicle or change in the way it feels
- Feeling of heaviness in the scrotum
- A dull ache in the lower abdomen or groin
- Fluid in the scrotum that appears suddenly
- Pain or discomfort in a testicle or in the scrotum
- Lower back pain (in later stages of the cancer)
- Enlarged breasts
The doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history, and perform a physical exam. Tests may include:
- Blood tests
- Ultrasonography—a test that uses sound waves to find tumors
- Excisional biopsy—removal of testicles to test for cancer cells
Once testicular cancer is found, tests are done to find out if the cancer has spread and, if so, to what extent.
Surgery requires removing the cancerous testicle. This is done through an incision in the groin. The surgeon may also remove nearby lymph nodes to check for metastasis.
Radiation Therapy (Radiotherapy)
Radiation therapy is the use of radiation to kill cancer cells and shrink tumors. Radiation therapy for testicular cancer comes from a machine outside the body that directs radiation at the abdomen.
Chemotherapy is the use of drugs to kill cancer cells. Chemotherapy may be given in many forms including: pill, injection, and via a catheter. The drugs enter the bloodstream and travel through the body killing mostly cancer cells, but also some healthy cells.
There are no guidelines for preventing testicular cancer. However, having your testicles examined by your doctor during regular physical exams can detect cancer in its early stages when it may be more treatable. Contact your doctor right away if you notice any lumps, hardness, or changes in your testicles. All men should perform self-testicular exams on a monthly basis, regardless of whether they are at risk or not.
Canadian Cancer Society
Cancer Care Ontario
What causes testicular cancer? American Cancer Society website. Available at: http://www.cancer.org/docroot/CRI/content/CRI_2_2_2x_What_Causes_Testicular_Cancer_41.asp?sitearea=. Updated December 4, 2007. Accessed July 2, 2008.
General information about testicular cancer. National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health (NIH) website. Available at: http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq/treatment/testicular/patient. Accessed July 2, 2008.
Last reviewed February 2008 by Rimas Lukas, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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