Testicular cancer affects the tissues in one or both testicles and is the
most common cancer in men between the ages of 15 and 35. Despite this,
it’s relatively rare—about 1 in 263 males will develop testicular
cancer during his lifetime.
Rates of testicular cancer have been increasing over the past several decades
in the United States, and experts aren’t sure why. Fortunately,
the rate of increase has slowed down in recent years. The MWHC Regional
Cancer Center believes that educating men on the risk factors and screening
for testicular cancer is a great way to continue this trend. And with
successful treatment, the risk of dying from testicular cancer is quite low.
Risk Factors and Screenings
Some men have risk factors that make it more likely that they will develop
testicular cancer, though it’s impossible to know for sure who will
get it. In fact, most boys and young men with testicular cancer don’t
have any of the known risk factors, which include:
- An undescended testicle: Before birth, one or both testicles fail to move
from the abdomen into the scrotum. In three out of four cases of testicular
cancer in these men, the cancer develops in the undescended testicle.
- A personal or family history of testicular cancer: A close male relative
with testicular cancer increases your lifetime risk of developing it.
And about 4 percent of men who have been successfully treated for cancer
in one testicle will later develop cancer in the other.
- Race/ethnicity: The lifetime risk of developing testicular cancer is 4
to 5 times higher among white men than black and Asian-American men.
No matter your risk factors for testicular cancer, regular screenings are
important. The American Cancer Society recommends a testicular exam as
part of routine checkups, which can include regular physical exams and
monthly self-exams. The best time for a self-exam is during or after a
bath or shower. Self-exams should include examining each testicle separately
and feeling for any hard lumps or masses or any change in the size or
shape of the testicles. If anything unusual is felt or seen, a consult
should be scheduled with your doctor right away.
Diagnosis and Treatment
In many cases, testicular cancer causes noticeable symptoms that send you
to the doctor, who will examine the testicles for swelling, tenderness,
or lumps. The doctor will also examine your abdomen, lymph nodes, and
other areas to determine whether the cancer has spread.
If your doctor suspects testicular cancer, an ultrasound is often the first
test. After that, a blood test will likely be used to look for high levels
of proteins called tumor markers that are produced by testicular cancers.
Depending on the type and stage of testicular cancer, treatment options include:
- Surgery: Most testicular cancers are treated with surgery to remove the
testicle or testicles containing cancerous cells and determine the type
and stage of the cancer. The surgeon may also remove lymph nodes at the
back of the abdomen. This can be done laparoscopically, using a narrow
tube with a camera instead of a large incision in the abdomen.
- Radiation therapy: High-energy rays are used to destroy or slow down the
growth of cancer cells. With testicular cancer, radiation is mainly used
to kill cancer that has spread to the lymph nodes.
- Chemotherapy: Drugs are used to target cancer outside the testicle or to
decrease the chance that it will return after the testicle has been removed.
Fortunately, treatment is often very effective. Not only do most patients
with testicular cancer live beyond five years, but most can be cured and
go on to lead healthy lives.