Testicular Cancer

Testicular cancer refers to the growth of cancerous cells in the testicles. The testicles, also referred to as the testes or gonads, are the male sex glands these glands are located within the scrotum, the sac of loose skin that hangs below the penis. The testicles produce the male hormone testosterone as well as sperm.

Cancer of the testicles is a rare form of cancer that primarily affects young boys and young adult men. It begins when healthy cells grow at an unusually fast rate, for an unknown reason. The increased tissue growth eventually produces masses, known as tumors.

WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS?

When cancer begins to affect the testicles, men may experience:

  • A painless lump or swelling in either testicle;
  • Enlargement of a testicle or a change in the way it feels;
  • Pain or discomfort in the testicle;
  • Discomfort or a heavy sensation in the scrotum;
  • An ache in the groin or lower abdomen; and
  • An abrupt collection of fluid in the scrotum.

CAUSES AND RISK FACTORS

The exact cause of testicular cancer is unknown. Some cancers may be inherited and caused by DNA mutations. Others may be related to environmental factors.

Known risk factors include:

  • Age (men who are between the ages of 15 and 35);
  • Race (European-American descent);
  • Undescended testicles;
  • Klinefelter’s syndrome;
  • Family history; and
  • HIV.

DIAGNOSIS

Many men discover testicular cancer themselves by finding lumps in the testes. A physician may also notice lumps during a routine office visit.

If a physician suspects a man has testicular cancer, he or she may order the following:

  • Ultrasound;
  • Blood tests; and/or
  • Biopsy.

If cancer is diagnosed, physicians also use computerized tomography (CT) scan and/or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

TREATMENT APPROACH

Treatment options for testicular cancer are surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy. The appropriate choice depends on how early the tumor is detected, its size and type, and whether it has spread. Physicians also consider the overall physical condition of the patient.

In most cases of testicular cancer, physicians surgically remove the testicle. Other treatments include:

  • Surgical removal of lymph nodes near the testicles;
  • Radiation
  • Chemotherapy

Physicians monitor patients’ progress through blood tests and imaging tests for two years after initial treatment.

LIFESTYLE

All men should examine their testicles regularly. Physicians recommend that men use a simple technique called a testicular self-exam (TSE) once a month.