It’s rare, but it does happen. A man’s chance of getting testicular cancer is about 1 in 263 which translates to a about 20,000 men every year. Testicular cancer is rare, accounting for about 1% of all male cancers. However,testicular cancer is the most common form of cancer in men ages 15-35. The good news is that with early prevention, the survival rate is 96-99%.
Testicular cancer or cancer of the testis occurs when cancer cells form in one or both testicles. These cells begin to change and grow uncontrollably, forming a mass or tumor. The cells can also invade the bloodstream and lymph system and spread, leading to tumors in other areas of the body.
There are two main types of tumors that account for the majority of testicular cancers:
- Seminoma: There are two sub-types of seminomas, and the classical (typical) seminomas are more likely to occur in men between ages of 30 and 50. Seminomas are testicular cancers that grow slowly. They’re usually confined to the testes, but the lymph nodes may also be involved.Spermatocytic seminomas are less common and are found more frequently in men 55 years and older. However, both types of seminoma tumors may occur in all age groups.
- Non-seminoma: There are four main sub-types of non-seminoma tumors: embryonal carcinoma, yolk sac carcinoma, choriocarcinoma, and teratoma. These types of tumors generally occur between the teen years and early 40s. They also tend to grow and spread rapidly to distant organs in the body including lungs, bones, and the brain.
What are the risk factors for testicular cancer?
The most important risk factor for testicular cancer is undescended testicles. In the womb, the testicles develop in a male baby’s abdomen. They usually move down into the scrotum at birth or in the first year of life. Other risk factors include:
- Having had abnormal development of the testicles.
- Having a personal history of testicular cancer.
- Having a family history of testicular cancer (especially in a father or brother).
- Being caucasian.
How can I prevent testicular cancer?
- Do the exam after a warm shower or bath.
- Use both hands to examine each testicle.
- As you feel the testicle, you may notice a cord-like structure on top and in back of the testicle.
- Feel for any lumps.
- You should also get a physical exam once a year.
What are the symptoms of testicular cancer?
- Swelling or discomfort in the scrotum
- A painless lump or swelling in either testicle.
- A change in how the testicle feels.
- A dull ache in the lower abdomen or groin.
- A sudden build-up of fluid in the scrotum
- Pain or discomfort in the testicle or in the scrotum.
If your own exam reveals a change, or any of these symptoms are present, call your doctor for a complete medical exam.
To determine whether a lump is testicular cancer, your doctor may recommend an ultrasound and blood tests. Other tests and scans are required to determine which stage of cancer the man is in. In its final stage, it spreads throughout the body. If the cancer is aggressive and left untreated, it can lead to death. 95% of testicular cancers will spread if left untreated.
Doctors providing your treatment may include:
- A urologist: a surgeon who specializes in treating diseases of the urinary system and male reproductive system.
- A radiation oncologist: a doctor who treats cancer with radiation therapy.
- A medical oncologist: a doctor who treats cancer with medicines such as chemotherapy.
Depending on the type of cancer, treatment options can include surgery to remove the testicle, radiation, and chemotherapy. Testicular cancer does not often return as a local recurrence because the entire testicle is removed. For recurrent testicular cancer, treatment usually includes chemotherapy and surgery.
Certain treatments for testicular cancer can cause infertility that may be permanent. Patients who may wish to have children should consider sperm banking before having treatment. Sperm banking is the process of freezing sperm and storing it for later use.
Sources: National Cancer Institute, Cancer.org and WebMD.