Testicular cancer is the most common cancer in men from age 18 to 34. Fortunately, when detected early, cancer of the testicle is one of the most easily cured types of cancer. It is crucial for testicular cancer to be diagnosed and treated at an early stage as it may spread throughout the lymph node system into the lungs and remaining parts of the body if not detected early.
While the exact cause of nearly all cases of testicular cancer is unknown, some of the commonly known risk factors linked to this disease are:
- Undescended testicle – Primary risk factor for testicular cancer.
- Family history – There is an increased risk of developing this cancer if a man’s brother or father has the disease.
- Age – approximately 90 percent of testicular cancer cases occur in men between the ages of 20 and 54, but this cancer can affect males of any age, including children and mature men.
- HIV infection
- Cancer of the other testicle
- Race and Ethnicity – Caucasian American males are about five times more likely to develop testicular cancer than African-American males, and three times more likely than Asian-American and American Indian males.
Testicular cancer begins as a small pea-sized lump within the testicle that may not be noticed unless self-testicular examinations are performed regularly. As not all swellings or lumps in the scrotum are cancer, noticing a lump isn’t necessarily reason to panic. However, it is important to have a physician check out all lumps or hard spots that a man or his partner may detect. Specific blood tests are now available to detect testicular cancer, as well as sound waves, which visualize the testicle for any irregularities.
Depending on the type and stage of the cancer, along with overall health and age, different methods will be used to treat testicular cancer.
As part of the diagnostic process patients may choose inguinal orchiectomy, a surgical procedure to remove a testicle and the full spermatic cord through an incision in the abdomen. The procedure is generally performed by a urologist, often as same-day surgery, with the patient returning home within hours of the procedure. The surgeon will remove the testicle through an incision in the groin during this procedure. The tissue will then undergo microscopic examination by a pathologist. Some patients elect to have a prosthetic testicle inserted into their scrotum. Further surgery, chemotherapy and/or radiation may be necessary if the cancer has moved beyond the testicles.
In most cases, testicular cancer responds positively to chemotherapy. This treatment kills cancer cells that have spread beyond the testicle to other parts of the body. Patients normally undergo intravenous infusions of the chemotherapy drugs. For stage II or III cancer, chemotherapy for 9 to 12 weeks may be needed. After completing the drug regimen, surgery or radiation may be required to remove remaining tumor masses.
In radiation therapy, high-dose X-rays kill cancer cells. Patients with seminoma cancer typically respond well to radiation therapy.
This surgery may be very difficult and requires the skills of an experienced surgeon. During retroperitoneal surgery, professionals remove lymph nodes in the abdomen that have potentially been tainted by the testicular cancer.