Testicular cancer at a glance
- Testicular cancer is the uncontrolled growth of cells that develop into a cancerous tumor in the testicles, the organs that produce sex hormones and sperm.
- Though a rare form of cancer, testicular cancer is most common in men aged 15–35, and is one of the most curable forms of cancer.
- Symptoms of testicular cancer include a noticeable lump in the testicles, painful testicles and a dull ache in the abdomen.
- Surgery is typically the standard treatment for testicular cancer, but radiation and chemotherapy may also be used depending on overall health of the patient and development of the tumor.
What is testicular cancer?
Testicular cancer is an uncommon form of cancer that originates inside the testicles. Also known as testes, the testicles are inside the scrotum, which is the loose bag of skin underneath the penis. Testicles are responsible for producing sperm and sex hormones. Testicular cancer typically only affects one of the testicles. Rare cases of testicular cancer involve both testicles.
Testicular cancer most commonly affects younger males age 15–35. Around 8,500 American men are diagnosed with testicular cancer each year and approximately 380 die as a result. Testicular cancer is one of the most treatable cancers. The overall risk of dying from testicular cancer once diagnosed is about 1 in 5,000 men.
Causes and risk factors of testicular cancer
Testicular cancer occurs when abnormal cell growth and mutation occurs in the testicles. Why cells grow out of control (the hallmark of cancer) is still undetermined. Causes of testicular cancer are unknown and untraceable to any particular event or predisposition. Most testicular cancers originate in the germ cells that make immature sperm.
Some factors that increase testicular cancer risk include:
- Family members who have, or had, testicular cancer
- Being age 15-35
- Being Caucasian
- Having undescended testicles or other abnormal testicle growth and development.
Symptoms of testicular cancer
Symptoms of testicular cancer most commonly manifest as a lump on the testicle or a feeling of heaviness in the scrotum. Other signs may include dull aching in the groin or abdomen, back pain and enlarged or tender breasts.
Men experiencing pain or swelling lasting more than two weeks or who have noticed a physical lump in the testicle should see a doctor as soon as possible. This can rule out or confirm testicular cancer, as well as other conditions with similar symptoms, such as urethritis and epididymitis.
Treatment of testicular cancer
Testicular cancer treatments are highly effective, even when testicular cancer is not caught at an early stage. Treatment will vary depending on overall patient health and preference. Surgery is the standard treatment for testicular cancer. These surgeries may involve removing the entire testicle or the surrounding lymph nodes. Because most cases of testicular cancer only involve one testicle, a man may continue to have children after testicular cancer surgery.
Radiation and chemotherapy may also be used as part of a testicular cancer treatment program. Chemotherapy may cause infertility in men and should be considered fully before choosing this treatment option. Men have the ability to freeze their sperm before the powerful chemotherapy drugs are administered for later insemination in a female.