Testicular Cancer - Symptoms, Risk factors and Treatment

Testicular cancer is the cancer of the testicles- a male sex gland.


What are the testicles?


The testicles are a pair of small organs present inside the scrotum- a pouch of skin that covers the testicles and is present just below the penis. The testicles are responsible for producing sperms and testosterone.


What are the types of testicular cancer?


Testicular cancer can be divided into two types:


  • Seminoma 

  • Nonseminoma


Seminoma is cancer that arises from the germ cells (sperms in males). They are less aggressive than non-seminoma and tend to develop and spread slowly. 


Nonseminoma is cancer that arises from premature cells that form germ cells. This type is aggressive and grows and spreads quickly. Some testicular cancers may be a mix of both, seminoma and nonseminoma.


What causes testicular cancer?


There is no exact cause of testicular cancer identified. However, some risk factors predispose a person to a higher risk of getting testicular cancer.


Risk factors for getting testicular cancer:


The following risk factors increase the risk of getting testicular cancer:


Age: Testicular cancer is more common in young men and teenagers aged 15-35.


Undescended testicles: Medically known as cryptorchidism, in this condition the testes remain in the abdominal cavity. Normally, the testicles are developed in the abdominal cavity and descend into the scrotum before birth. Men with cryptorchidism are at a high risk of getting testicular cancer even if the testicles are surgically relocated into the scrotum.


Race: Testicular cancer is more common in white men than in other races.


Family history: A positive family history of testicular cancer poses an increased risk of testicular cancer in a man.


Infertility and testicular abnormalities: Men with testicular abnormalities such as Klinefelter syndrome, in which the testicles are not developed normally, and infertile men are at higher risk of developing testicular cancer.


Symptoms of testicular cancer:


The symptoms of testicular cancer include:


  • Swelling in the scrotum 

  • A lump in the testicle

  • Pain in the testicle

  • A testicle reduced in size

  • Feeling of heaviness in the scrotum 

  • Dull ache in the groin or abdomen 

  • Backache


Diagnosis:


Testicular cancer is usually brought to clinical attention when a man notices any abnormality in his testicles. A detailed history and physical exam can help indicate the diagnosis. 


For imaging, the doctor may initially suggest an ultrasound to view the inside of the testicle and check for any abnormalities. Other than ultrasound, a CT scan or an X-Ray may be suggested.


Along with that, a blood test of tumor markers can help reach the diagnosis. Tumor markers are different substances present in the blood linked with different cancers. A needle biopsy is usually not done in testicular cancer and is done only when a whole testicle is removed.


Treatment of testicular cancer:


The treatment of testicular cancer usually involves:


Surgery: This can involve removing the affected testicle and the parts to which cancer has spread.


Chemotherapy: This involves medications to stop the growth of cancer.


Radiotherapy: In this treatment, high doses of X-rays are used to kill cancer cells. Radiotherapy is usually used for seminoma as it is sensitive to radiotherapy.


Conclusion:


Testicular cancer is a malignancy of the testicles. The good news is that it has an excellent prognosis, and most of the time it can be completely cured. It is recommended for men to self-examine their scrotum and testicles and check for any abnormalities such as a lump or swelling. Self-examination can help with early detection and diagnosis, which in turn favors good cure rates. 


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