Testicular cancer starts in the testicles, the two male reproductive organs that hang below the penis in a sac called the scrotum.
About Testicular Cancer
In adults, each testicle is usually slightly smaller than a golf ball. The testicles make several hormones, including testosterone. They also make reproductive cells called sperm. There are different kinds of cells in each testicle, each of which can grow into one or more types of cancer.
Screening for Testicular Cancer
In addition to a complete medical history and physical exam, other tests for testicular cancer may include:
- Ultrasound: A test that uses high-frequency sound waves to create an image. This test can be used to determine if a lump on a testicle is solid or filled with fluid. (Solid lumps are more likely to be cancerous.)
- Blood tests: Assessment of blood samples to check for increased levels of certain proteins and enzymes to help determine if cancerous cells are present, or to determine how much cancer is present.
- Biopsy: A procedure in which tissue samples are removed (during surgery) from the body for examination under a microscope to determine if cancer is present.
- When testicular tumors are present, the entire tumor, the testicle and the spermatic cord are typically removed during the biopsy. This is done to prevent the spread of cancerous cells through the blood and lymph systems.
Testicular Self-Exam (TSE) Procedure
The best time for testicular self-exam is just after a warm bath or shower when the scrotal tissue is more relaxed. Here are steps to take:
- While standing in front of a mirror, place the thumbs on the front side of the testicle and support it with the index and middle fingers of both hands.
- Gently roll the testicle between the fingers and thumbs. Feel for lumps, hardness or thickness. Compare the feelings in each testicle.
- If you find a lump, see your doctor as soon as possible.
Symptoms of Testicular Cancer
The most common symptoms for testicular cancer are:
- A lump in either testicle, which is usually not painful
- Enlargement of a testicle
- Feeling of heaviness in the scrotum
- Dull ache in the lower abdomen or in the groin
- Sudden collection of fluid in the scrotum
- Pain or discomfort in a testicle or in the scrotum
Our Approach to Testicular Cancer Treatment
There are several kinds of treatments for testicular cancer, which may be used alone or in a plan that includes more than more treatment. Some options include:
- Surgery: This is done to remove the tumor and the testicle, and possibly lymph nodes in the back of the abdomen.
- Radiation therapy: This treatment helps to destroy cancer cells or slow the rate of growth.
- Chemotherapy: These drugs are used to destroy cancer cells throughout the body.
- High-dose chemotherapy and stem cell transplantation: This procedure involves collecting stem cells (a procedure similar to donating blood) from the patient to protect them during high dose chemotherapy and reinfuse these stem cells into the patient after chemotherapy to help in the repopulation of healthy blood cells.
Demographic Risk Factors
Testicular cancer most commonly occurs in men between the ages of 20 and 35, although it can happen at any age.
White men are more likely to get testicular cancer than black men. Men in Europe and the United States have the highest risk of getting testicular cancer. African and Asian men have the lowest risk. Researchers do not know what accounts for these differences.