Testical Cancer

Explore advanced testical cancer treatment options available in China.

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Testicular cancer is a growth of cells that starts in the testicles. The testicles, which are also called testes, are in the scrotum. The scrotum is a loose bag of skin underneath the penis. The testicles make sperm and the hormone testosterone.

Testicular cancer isn’t a common type of cancer. It can happen at any age, but it happens most often between the ages of 15 and 45.

The first sign of testicular cancer often is a bump or lump on a testicle. The cancer cells can grow quickly. They often spread outside the testicle to other parts of the body.

Testicular cancer is highly treatable, even when it spreads to other parts of the body. Treatments depend on the type of testicular cancer that you have and how far it has spread. Common treatments include surgery and chemotherapy.

Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of testicular cancer include:

  • A lump or swelling in either testicle
  • A feeling of heaviness in the scrotum
  • A dull ache in the lower belly or groin
  • Sudden swelling in the scrotum
  • Pain or discomfort in a testicle or the scrotum
  • Enlargement or tenderness of the breast tissue
  • Back pain

Usually testicular cancer only happens in one testicle.

Diagnosis

You might find lumps, swelling or other symptoms of testicular cancer on your own. They can be detected during an exam by a health care provider too. You’ll need other tests to see if testicular cancer is causing your symptoms.

Tests used to diagnose testicular cancer include:

  • Ultrasound. A testicular ultrasound test uses sound waves to make pictures. It can be used to make pictures of the scrotum and testicles. During an ultrasound you lie on your back with your legs spread. A health care provider puts a clear gel on the scrotum. A hand-held probe is moved over the scrotum to make the pictures.

    Ultrasound gives your provider more clues about any lumps around the testicle. It can help your provider see whether the lumps look like something that isn’t cancer or if they look like cancer. An ultrasound shows whether the lumps are inside or outside the testicle. Lumps inside the testicle are more likely to be testicular cancer.

  • Blood tests. A blood test can detect proteins made by testicular cancer cells. This type of test is called a tumor marker test. Tumor markers for testicular cancer include beta-human chorionic gonadotropin, alpha-fetoprotein and lactate dehydrogenase. Having these substances in your blood doesn’t mean you have cancer. Having levels higher than is typical is a clue your health care team uses to understand what’s going on in your body.
  • Surgery to remove a testicle. If your health care provider thinks a lump on your testicle may be cancerous, you might have surgery to remove the testicle. The testicle is sent to a lab for testing. The tests can show whether it’s cancerous.

Determining the type of cancer

Tests on your cancer cells give your health care team information about the type of testicular cancer that you have. Your care team considers your cancer type when deciding on your treatment.

The most common types of testicular cancer include:

  • Seminoma. Seminoma testicular cancers tend to happen at an older age. Seminomas often grow and spread more slowly than nonseminomas.
  • Nonseminoma. Nonseminoma testicular cancers tend to happen earlier in life. They grow and spread quickly. Several types of nonseminomas exist. They include choriocarcinoma, embryonal carcinoma, teratoma and yolk sac tumor.

Other types of testicular cancer exist, but they are very rare.

Staging the cancer

Once your doctor confirms your diagnosis, the next step is to see whether the cancer has spread beyond the testicle. This is called the cancer’s stage. It helps your health care team understand your prognosis and how likely your cancer is to be cured.

Tests for staging testicular cancer include:

  • Computerized tomography (CT) scan. CT scans take a series of X-ray pictures of your belly, chest and pelvis. A health care provider checks the pictures for signs that cancer has spread.
  • Blood tests. Tumor marker tests are often repeated after surgery to remove the testicle. The results help your health care provider decide whether you might need additional treatments to kill the cancer cells. Tumor marker tests might be used during and after cancer treatment to monitor your condition.

The stages of testicular cancer range from 0 to 3. In general, stage 0 and stage 1 cancers only affect the testicle and the area around it. At these early stages, the cancer hasn’t spread to the lymph nodes or other parts of the body. Stage 2 testicular cancers have spread to the lymph nodes. When testicular cancer spreads to other parts of the body, it is stage 3. Not all stage 3 cancers have spread though. Stage 3 can also mean that the cancer is in the lymph nodes and the tumor marker results are very high.

Treatment

Testicular cancer treatment often involves surgery and chemotherapy. Which treatment options are best for you depends on the type of testicular cancer you have and its stage. Your health care team also considers your overall health and your preferences.

Surgery

Operations used to treat testicular cancer include:

  • Surgery to remove the testicle. This procedure is called a radical inguinal orchiectomy. It’s the first treatment for most testicular cancers. To remove the testicle, a surgeon makes a cut in the groin. The entire testicle is pulled out through the opening. A prosthetic, gel-filled testicle can be inserted if you choose. This might be the only treatment needed if the cancer hasn’t spread beyond the testicle.
  • Surgery to remove nearby lymph nodes. If there’s concern that your cancer may have spread beyond your testicle, you might have surgery to remove some lymph nodes. To remove the lymph nodes, the surgeon makes a cut in the belly. The lymph nodes are tested in a lab to look for cancer. Surgery to remove lymph nodes is often used to treat the nonseminoma type of testicular cancer.

Testicular cancer surgery carries a risk of bleeding and infection. If you have surgery to remove lymph nodes, there’s also a risk that a nerve might be cut. Surgeons take great care to protect the nerves. Sometimes cutting a nerve can’t be avoided. This can lead to problems with ejaculating, but it generally doesn’t affect your ability to get an erection. Ask your health care provider about options for preserving your sperm before surgery.

Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy treatment uses strong medicines to kill cancer cells. Chemotherapy travels throughout the body. It can kill cancer cells that may have spread beyond the testicle.

Chemotherapy is often used after surgery. It can help kill any cancer cells that are still in the body. When testicular cancer is very advanced, sometimes chemotherapy is used before surgery.

Side effects of chemotherapy depend on the specific medicines being used. Common side effects include fatigue, hearing loss and an increased risk of infection.

Chemotherapy also may cause your body to stop making sperm. Often, sperm production starts again as you get better after cancer treatment. But sometimes losing sperm production is permanent. Ask your health care provider about your options for preserving your sperm before chemotherapy.

Radiation therapy

Radiation therapy uses high-powered energy beams to kill cancer cells. The radiation can come from X-rays, protons and other sources. During radiation therapy, you’re positioned on a table and a large machine moves around you. The machine points the energy beams at precise points on your body.

Radiation therapy is sometimes used to treat the seminoma type of testicular cancer. Radiation therapy may be recommended after surgery to remove your testicle.

Radiation therapy typically isn’t used to treat the nonseminoma type of testicular cancer.

Side effects may include nausea and fatigue. Radiation therapy also can temporarily lower sperm counts. This can affect your fertility. Ask your health care provider about your options for preserving your sperm before radiation therapy.

Immunotherapy

Immunotherapy is treatment with medicine that helps your body’s immune system kill cancer cells. Your immune system fights off diseases by attacking germs and other cells that shouldn’t be in your body. Cancer cells survive by hiding from the immune system. Immunotherapy helps the immune system cells find and kill the cancer cells.

Immunotherapy is sometimes used for advanced testicular cancer. It might be an option if the cancer doesn’t respond to other treatments.

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