Testicular cancer begins in the testicles, the two glands that produce male hormones and sperm. Although rare, testicular cancer is the most common type of cancer in men aged 15 to 35.
Testicular cancer is among the more curable cancers,
even at an advanced stage, thanks to improved detection and treatment.
There is a higher incidence in men who had or have a condition called an undescended testicle, who have fertility problems, and who’ve had a father with the disease.
Doctors don’t know why a man develops testicular cancer. However, doctors have found links between testicular cancer and other factors. These are described here. Ten percent of testicular cancers occur in men who also had a condition called an undescended testicle (cryptorchidism). Testicular cancer may also run in families usually from parent to child. Genetic disorders such as Klinefelter’s syndrome and Down syndrome can raise the risk. The strongest risk factor for developing a testicular cancer is a personal history of testicular cancer. The incidence of developing cancer in the opposite testicle is 1% to 2%, which is 500 times that of the normal population. Men with fertility problems are more likely to be diagnosed with testicular cancer and testicular cancer increases the risk of infertility.
Other suspected, but unproven, risk factors include a sedentary lifestyle, early puberty, previous exposure to mumps, testicular injury, elevated scrotal temperature, and overexposure to pesticides or radiation. Others suggest prenatal conditions with the man’s mother during pregnancy could be a contributor as well, including abnormal bleeding, estrogen therapy, or taking diethylstilbestrol (DES) during pregnancy. DES was once given to pregnant women to prevent miscarriage but is no longer marketed in the U.S.
Treatment includes surgically removing the cancerous testicle, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy.
Thanks to advances in diagnosis and treatment, testicular cancer is among the most curable of cancers, even in an advanced stage, and it is rarely fatal. Over 90% of patients are diagnosed with small, localized cancers that are highly treatable.
Improved detection and treatment techniques have raised the overall five-year survival rate above 95% for most of these cancers.
Even if cancer has spread to nearby organs at diagnosis, patients have an excellent chance of long-term survival.
When cancer is suspected, an open surgical procedure (orchiectomy) is done to confirm the diagnosis. A testicular biopsy maybe performed on rare occasions to help determine the cause of male infertility.
Symptoms and Severity
Symptoms include swelling and hardening of a testicle and a change in its shape or size. Testicular cancers begin in the testicles themselves. Testicular cancer may spread slowly or rapidly through the lymphatic or blood vessels, depending on its type, but the path is consistent: Once cancer cells are free to spread to nearby lymph or blood vessels, they could be carried to the lungs, then to the liver, bones, and possibly the brain. Noncancerous growths in the testicle are rare, so all masses should be assumed to be a cancer until proven otherwise.