For the Men in Your Life: Testicular Cancer Facts

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Testicular cancer is a relatively rare cancer. It accounts for only 1 percent of all cancers in men. About 1 of every 250 males will develop it in their lifetime.

But Daniel B. Miller, MD, of the Dayton Physicians Urology Division, says, “The condition is the most common cancer in American men between the ages of 15 and 35.” 

Testicular cancer affects primarily young and middle-aged men. But it comes in various types, some that grow more slowly and others, faster. Slower growing forms can affect older men. And about 6 percent of cases occur in children and teens.

Almost all testicular cancers start in the germ cells of the testicles. These cells produce immature sperm that travel through a network of tubules (tiny tubes) and larger tubes into the epididymis – a coiled tube next to the testicles. The sperm are stored there and mature.

Risk Factors

The following raise the risk for testicular cancer: 

  • A family or personal history of testicular cancer
  • Having had an undescended testicle or abnormal development of the testicles
  • HIV infection
  • Being white. White men are at four to five times greater risk than African-American and Asian-American men.

Symptoms, Detection and Diagnosis

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When detected early, testicular cancer is nearly 100 percent curable. Some doctors recommend a monthly testicular self-exam for early detection after puberty – particularly for men with risk factors. 

Dr. Miller says, “Most guys come in because they feel a lump. It doesn’t hurt, but it’s not going away.” 

Signs and symptoms may also include:  

  • Pain or discomfort in a testicle or in the scrotum
  • 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

Physical exams, ultrasounds and blood tests are commonly used to confirm a diagnosis of testicular cancer. 

“Depending on the results of the ultrasound and blood test, we might remove a testicle,” Dr. Miller says. “We’ll study the cells in the lump to determine the type and stage of the cancer.”

Dr. Miller adds, “There are two kinds of testicular cancer. Seminomas grow and spread slowly and usually occur in men between the ages of 25 and 45. Non-seminomas grow quickly and are more difficult to treat. They appear in men between their late teens and early 30s.”

CT scans of the abdomen and chest are used to determine if the cancer has spread to other parts of the body.

Pregnancy tests have been cited in social media as a way to detect testicular cancer, but Dr. Miller cautions, “That is not good medicine. Pregnancy tests can detect a hormone produced by some testicular cancers, but not all of them. A urine test can miss many forms of testicular cancer.”

When detected early, testicular cancer is nearly 100 percent curable.

Testicular Cancer Treatment 

“Once we know the type and stage of testicular cancer,” Dr. Miller explains, “we’ll either watch it or provide more treatments. In many cases, removing the testicle (radical inguinal orchiectomy) is all the treatment that is needed. In some cases, patients may need chemotherapy, radiation therapy and surgery to remove lymph nodes (retroperitoneal lymph node dissection) in the abdomen.”

Chance of Cure

Testicular cancer can usually be cured in patients who receive chemotherapy or radiation therapy after surgery. And it is nearly 100 percent curable when found early. 

The following factors affect the treatment used and chance of recovery:

  • Type of cancer
  • Size of the tumor
  • Stage of the cancer
  • Number and size of affected lymph nodes, if the cancer has spread

Can Testicular Cancer Cause Infertility?

Dr. Miller says that some testicular cancer treatments may cause a low sperm count. And some tumors produce a substance that may temporarily interfere with fertility. 

“Many men use sperm banking before treatment as a way to preserve healthy sperm for future family planning,” he adds. In sperm banking, sperm is frozen and stored for later use.

In many cases, when only one testicle is involved, infertility is temporary. But in some cases, infertility may be permanent. 

It's easy to get the care you need.

See a Premier Physician Network provider near you.

Small Steps: Ask for Your Medical Records
When you go for a second opinion, be sure to ask that your medical records be shared with the doctor you are going to see.