Testicular cancer occurs in the testicles, a male reproductive organ found in the scrotum. These organs are responsible for the production of hormones and the creation of sperm.
Although this is a rare cancer type compared to others, with roughly 10,000 cases occurring each year, this cancer has a great recovery rate. Read on to learn more about this disease and what you can expect when diagnosed.
The specific cause of most testicular cancers is unknown. Several conditions are linked to testicular cancers thanks to cancer research, but the exact source isn’t the same for all men.
However, in most cases, a cancer cell develops into a tumor due to rapid growth. These growths can result from a growth in the tissue layers of the testicle or a germ cell tumor where the sperm is made.
Learning the exact cancer type will come down to the result of medical oncology testing.
There are a handful of symptoms associated with testicular cancer. Not every symptom indicates a tumor or cancer but can lead to that diagnosis. Some example symptoms include:
- The presence of a lump in the testicle, painless or otherwise
- Swelling or a feeling of extra weight within the affected testicle
- A dull ache coming from the groin, scrotum, or testicle
- Tenderness or other sensations in the breast tissue
The most common symptom of testicular cancer is a painless lump in the testicle. If you find one during self-examination, you should seek a doctor as quickly as possible.
The doctor will check to see if the symptoms are caused by cancer or other issues such as epididymitis, testicular torsion, or hydrocele.
Who Gets It
Most of the causes of testicular cancer are genetic. Men with a family history of testicular cancer are more likely to develop testicular cancer during their lives than those without that history.
However, patients can learn some signs without knowing their family history. The presence of germ cells called germ cell neoplasia in situ (GCNIS) are abnormal cells in the testicle that correlate with testicular cancer or a predisposition to it. Infertility tests can discover these cells before a tumor develops, meaning that males who take this test can get a warning.
Finally, men with cryptorchidism, or undescended testicles, have a higher likelihood of developing a testicular tumor, regardless of if surgery occurred on the undescended testicle.
How to Prevent
What Research Says
Research is ongoing about what causes testicular cancer and what improvements the medical industry can make to treat those affected. However, medical professionals can classify testicular cancer into various categories depending on the nature of the carcinoma.
For example, most seminomas, or germ cell tumors, are classical, meaning they can spread to other body tissues, such as the lymph nodes. Cancer treatment for these carcinomas involves both local and systemic treatment options.
However, other testis carcinomas exist, such as embryonal carcinomas, yolk sac carcinomas, and choriocarcinomas. Each type of cancer comes with its own tumor marker set, leading to the wide range of proteins tested during blood work.
Outside of genetic predispositions, the field of clinical oncology does not know of any risk factors for testicular cancer. As for genetic factors like undescended testicles, being of the Caucasian race, or a known family history of testis cancer, these cannot be changed by the patient.
The American Cancer Society recommends correcting undescended testicles in boys to preserve their fertility and improve body image; no clinical trial to date shows that this helps prevent testicular cancer.
Tests & Diagnosis
How is it given?
A healthcare professional will work with you through several procedures to check for testicular cancer.
- Testicular exam: The patient or a doctor will feel the testicle for lumps by gently rolling the testicle between the thumb and forefingers.
- Testicular ultrasound: An imaging test that reviews the scrotum for lumps.
- Serum tumor marker tests: This test looks for tumor markers that indicate the presence of a seminoma, a type of cancer that starts in the germ cells of the testicle. Seminoma cancers are slow to spread, making them difficult to detect otherwise.