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Saturday, 20 Oct 2018

Testicular cancer

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What is testicular cancer?

Testicular cancer is a growth of abnormal cells in a testicle. The testicles are part of the male reproductive system. They produce sperm and the male hormone, testosterone. They reside within the scrotum, which is the sac of loose skin below the penis.


How does it occur?

The cause of testicular cancer is not known, but there are several risk factors, such as:

  • a testicle that did not move from inside the abdomen down into the scrotum before birth (called an undescended testicle) even if it was later surgically corrected 
  • a history of cancer in one of the testicles 
  • a family history of testicular cancer, especially brothers and less so with fathers or sons 
  • abnormal development of the testicles, penis or kidneys 
  • HIV infection

Testicular cancer is most common in men between the ages of 15 and 45. It is unusual after the age of 50 and in African-Americans and Hispanics.


What are the symptoms?

Symptoms of testicular cancer are:

  • a painless mass in a testicle 
  • pain or discomfort in a testicle or the scrotum 
  • a dull ache in the lower abdomen or back.

How is it diagnosed?

  • physical examination 
  • blood tests (beta-hCG, and AFP) 
  • ultrasound scan of the testicles.

Blood tests are often needed to check for substances made by the cancer that often occur in larger amounts when you have testicular cancer. The substances are called alpha-fetoprotein (AFP) and beta-human chorionic gonadotropin (beta-hCG). 

How is it treated?

Surgery to remove the testicle through an incision in the groin is performed. The operation is called an inguinal orchiectomy.

Additional treatments may include:

  • chemotherapy, which uses drugs to kill cancer cells 
  • radiation therapy, which is the use of high-energy rays to shrink the tumor and kill cancer cells (usually for the type of testicular cancer called seminoma).

How long will the effects last?

Testicular cancer can be cured with a very high success rate. The earlier the cancer is found, the more likely the treatment will be successful. However, testicular cancer, like all cancers, can metastasize. Men who have had cancer in one testicle have a slightly higher risk of getting cancer in the other testicle. Regular examinations after treatment are important. Frequent checkups that include blood tests and CT scans are necessary to ensure long-term success.

It is recommended that sperm is banked before treatment is started. The sperm might then be used later on if children are desired.


How can I help prevent testicular cancer?

Because the cause of testicular cancer is not known, regular monthly self-checks are important for early detection.