Testicular cancer is one of the most curable forms of cancer. Even so, several thousand men in the U.S. die from testicular cancer each year. Through early detection, many more lives can be saved.
There are several symptoms that can indicate testicular cancer. It's important to remember that not every person will experience the same symptoms.
- A lump in either testicle
- Enlarged testicle
- A feeling of heaviness in the scrotum
- Ache in the lower abdomen or groin
- Collection of fluid in the scrotum
- Pain in the testicle or scrotum
- Enlargement of breasts or tenderness in chest
Researchers have not yet determined what causes testicular cancer. We do know that there are several factors that put you at greater risk.
- Undescended testicle
- Kinefelter's syndrome
- Family history of testicular cancer
- History of cancer in the other testicle
- HIV infection
- Men whose mothers took DES to prevent miscarriage during pregnancy
Your doctor can use one of several diagnostic tools to detect testicular cancer.
- Ultrasound uses sound waves to create a picture of your testicle that can reveal abnormalities.
- Blood tests can reveal certain markers, such as AFP, LDH and HCG, which may indicate that cancerous cells are present.
- Biopsies detect cancer through the removal of a small sample of cells which is then examined under a microscope.
Your treatment plan will be based on the stage of your cancer as well as other factors, such as your age and medical history.
- Surgery. Radical inguinal orchiectomy is used to remove both the tumor and the testicle.
- Radiation. External beam therapy sends high doses of radiation directly into the site of the tumor.
- Chemotherapy. Anti-cancer drugs are used to block the ability of cancer cells to grow or reproduce.
- Stem cell transplantation. After high dose chemotherapy, stem cells that were harvested before the start of treatment are put back into the patient to help produce healthy blood cells.
The side effects of treatment for testicular cancer may include infertility and sexual dysfunction.
Testicular cancer cannot currently be prevented. Through testicular self-examination, though, testicular cancer can be detected early when it is most treatable.
For instructions on performing a testicular self-examination, click here.
"Staging" means determining how advanced a cancer is. This is a critical step in planning the most appropriate treatment plan.
Stage I is the least advanced, when cancer cells are only present in the testes. Stage III is the most advanced, when cancer cells have spread to lymph nodes outside of the lower abdomen or to other organs.
Staging of testicular cancer may be performed by CT, MRI or lymphangiography (a technology that provides a detailed image of the lymph system).
Grading is another important step in the diagnostic process. It helps doctors determine how quickly a tumor is likely to grow or spread.
Cancer cells are removed through a biopsy and then examined in a lab to see how closely they resemble normal cells. Cells that look nearly normal are usually less aggressive, while those whole appearance is significantly different from normal cells are more likely to be aggressive.