Testicular cancer is cancer of the male sex organ, the testicle. This is a part of the male reproductive system which normally produces the hormone testosterone. This type is considered to be one of the most common cancers in young men.
Testicular cancer is a disease that occurs when abnormal cells in the testicles (testes) begin to grow in an uncontrolled manner.
The risk of cancer of the testicles is increased in males whose testicles did not move down normally into the scrotum (holding sac for the testicles) during development unless the problem is corrected in early childhood. This condition is referred to as undescended testicles.
After cancer in the testicle is detected, surgical removal of the affected testicle (orchiectomy) is done and the cancer is confirmed by examination of the tissue under a microscope. Testicular cancer is almost always curable if it is found early. But denial and embarrassment about the testicles contribute to testicular cancer being one of the least mentioned cancers.
The chance of getting testicular cancer in overall man’s lifetime is roughly 1 in 250. It is most common among males aged 15–40 years.
Testicular cancer is the most common cancer in American males. Testicular Cancer has one of the highest cure rates of all cancers, essentially one hundred percent if the Cancer has not spread. Even for the relatively few cases in which the cancer has spread widely, chemotherapy offers a cure rate of at least fifty percent.
The cause of testicular cancer is unknown. Depending on the type and stage of testicular cancer, one of several treatments or a combination may be given. Regular testicular self-examinations can help identify dangerous growths early, when the chance for successful treatment of testicular cancer is highest. Most testicular cancers are found by men in themselves as a lump in the testicle (self examination).
Cause of Testicular Cancer
The exact cause of testicular cancer is unknown. However, several conditions may increase the risk, including:
- The undecided testicle condition called Cryptorchidism, which occurs when the testes do not descend from the abdomen into the scrotum. Normally, the testes descend into the scrotum before the male fetus is born or during the first 3 months of infancy.
- Klinefelter syndrome, which is a genetic disorder that affects males. Normally, males have one X and one Y chromosome; males with Klinefelter syndrome have at least two X chromosomes and, in rare cases, as many as three or four.
- A family history of testicular cancer.
Testicular Cancer Symptoms or Signs of Testicular Cancer
The most common symptom of testicular cancer is a painless lump in the testicle. This lump can be small or large, and it can be hard or soft. Some men also will have discomfort or swelling in the testicle that can mimic an infection. Breast swelling or tenderness also can occur. If cancer has spread beyond the testicle, there can be a variety of symptoms, including back or abdominal pain and shortness of breath.
Testicular cancer symptoms or Signs of testicular cancer can be summarized as follows:
- Pain or swelling in the testicles
- Discomfort in a testicle or in the scrotum;
- Lumps or nodules in or on the testicles, whether painful or not
- Enlargement of the testicles or change in the way a testicle feels
- Shrinking of a testicle;
- Pain in the lower abdomen, back, or groin areas
- Swelling of the scrotum or collection of fluid within the scrotum
- A feeling of heaviness in the scrotum
- A dull pressure or ache in the lower abdomen or in the groin;
- Many men with testicular cancer will not feel ill and may report no symptoms.
- Pain or Enlargement or tenderness of the breasts.
- Unexplained fatigue or a general feeling of not being well
- Cancer usually affects only one testicle.
Other benign conditions can cause the symptoms listed above. However, since early stage testicular cancer is curable, men should see a doctor if they have any of the warning signs or symptoms of testicular cancer. Initially tests should be performed to know whether the cause of these symptoms is due to cancer or any other.
The first sign of testicular cancer is most commonly a little (“pea-sized”) lump on the testis. There may be no real pain, at most just a dull ache in the lower abdomen or groin, perhaps a sensation of dragging and heaviness.
Testicular Cancer Treatment
factors in choosing treatment options. They are:
Radical inguinal orchiectomy: Nearly all men with testicular cancer begin treatment with the surgical removal of the affected testicle(s). This surgical procedure involves removing one or both testicles through a cut in the groin. Removing the affected testicle helps the doctor determine the type of cancer cells present (grade) and whether the cancer has spread beyond the testes (stage).
Lymph nodes in the abdomen also may be removed (lymph node dissection). If just one cancerous testicle is removed, there’s a small chance that the other will become cancerous at some point. As a result, your doctor will likely recommend regular follow-up exams with a urologist. Surgery may be in combination with radiation therapy or chemotherapy or both.
External beam radiation therapy: Radiation therapy, which is sometimes used to treat cancer that has spread beyond the testes. This treatment uses high-dose X-rays or other high-energy radiation to kill cancer cells. Seminomas are highly sensitive to radiation therapy, but nonseminomas are not.
Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy to destroy any cancer cells that remain after surgery.
Chemotherapy is used to kill cancer cells outside the testicle. This drug therapy is usually given by infusions into the veins (intravenous), typically done on an outpatient basis.
Bone marrow transplant: In this procedure, bone marrow is taken from the patient, treated with drugs to kill any cancer cells and then frozen. Later the patient undergoes chemotherapy, with or without radiation, to destroy the remaining cancer cells the body. The chemotherapy also destroys the remaining bone marrow. The frozen marrow is then thawed and injected back into the body through a needle in a vein.
This relatively new treatment for testicular cancer has shown some promising initial results. Yet doctors don’t routinely recommend it because traditional chemotherapy treatments are typically very successful. Bone marrow transplant is used only in rare cases of the disease.
Testicular Cancer Prognosis
The outcome of Testicular Cancer is referred to as ‘Prognosis’. Testicular Cancer prognosis may include the duration of Testicular Cancer, probable outcomes, chances of complications of Testicular Cancer, prospects for recovery, recovery period for testicular Cancer, survival rates, death rates, and other outcome possibilities in the overall prognosis of testicular Cancer. However these forecasts are unpredictable.
There are different types of testicular cancer and their prognosis statistics are slightly different. As with other types of cancer, the chances of recovery or prognosis also vary depending on the stage of the cancer.
As mentioned testicular cancer usually can be cured if it is detected and treated early. However, some men do not complain any symptoms at early stage unless the disease reaches advanced stage.
Stage 1 and stage 2 seminomas are nearly always curable. Testicular Cancer has one of the highest cure rates of all cancers, essentially one hundred percent if the Cancer has not spread.
Majority of men with testicular cancer have an excellent prognosis. Prognosis for Stage I disease is very high. Most seminomas are curable, even if they have spread before they were diagnosed. Prognosis for these men is of two types good and intermediate.
Most men have a good prognosis. Good prognosis means that the seminoma has spread only to the lymph nodes or the lung. It must not have spread anywhere else. About 86 out of every 100 men (86%) with pure seminoma in this category live for at least 5 years.
Some men have an intermediate prognosis. Intermediate prognosis means that the seminoma has spread beyond the lung or lymph nodes, to other parts of the body such as the brain, liver or bone. Men at this stage are very likely to be cured with surgery and radiation therapy.
The prognosis is also very good for non-seminoma testicular cancer. Non-seminoma testicular cancer statistics can also be worked out on the basis of the number stages.
Good prognosis , Intermediate prognosis, Poor prognosis are the three stages of prognosis. Men with Stage II testicular cancer have a very good prognosis following surgery and radiation or chemotherapy. Even the small percent of men with the most advanced cases still have a 5-year survival rate of about 50%.
Good prognosis means that your primary cancer was in the testicle or at the back of the stomach or abdomen (retroperitoneal). It may have spread to the lungs or lymph nodes, but must not have spread to anywhere else in your body. About 92 out of every 100 men (92%) with non-seminoma testicular cancer in this group live for at least 5 years.
Intermediate prognosis is the same as for good prognosis. About 80 out of every 100 men (80%) with non seminoma testicular cancer in this group live for at least 5 years.
Poor prognosis means that the primary cancer arose in the chest (mediastinum). Or that the cancer has spread to somewhere else in the body, apart from the lungs or lymph nodes, such as the bone, liver or brain. About 48 out of every 100 men (48%) with non-seminoma testicular cancer in this group live for at least 5 years.
Chances of developing testicular cancer in the other testicle are very low. People who have been cured of testicular cancer involving 1 testicle have a 2% to 5% risk that they will develop cancer in the other testicle at some point in their lives.
Testicular Cancer Survival rate
Testicular cancer survival rate is given separately for Seminoma and Non Seminoma (Stage I and Stage II):
The survival rate for men with early stage seminoma (the least aggressive type of testicular cancer) is greater than 95%.
The disease-free survival rate for Stage I non-seminomatous cancer is nearly 95%; for Stage II seminomas it is 70-90%, depending on the size of the tumor when treatment is begun; for Stage II non-seminomas it is greater than 95%; and for Stage III for both is usually about 70% curable. This response to treatment means that testicular cancer is one of the most treatable cancers.
Testicular Cancer Prevention Program
There are no proven ways for testicular cancer prevention as the cause is unknown. Beginning in the mid teenage years, and continuing throughout one’s life, one should examine testicles regularly. However, the following steps may increase the possibility of finding early-stage testicular cancer, when it is most likely to be curable.
- Perform regular testicular self-examinations (TSE). Most cases of testicular cancer are discovered during self-examination or by a health professional during a routine physical.
- Be aware of any pain or discomfort in your scrotum, pelvis, or lower back.
Regular self-examination is an important health habit. But it can’t substitute for a doctor’s examination.