Testicles are two oval-shaped male sex organs that rest in the scrotum (a loose bag of skin under the penis) on either side of the penis. They play an important role in the male reproductive system as they produce sperm and testosterone. Testicular cancer occurs in the testicles.
IS TESTICULAR CANCER COMMON?
It is rare compared to other types of cancer. However, it is the most common cancer in American males between the ages of fifteen and thirty five. Testicular cancer normally affects only one testicle.
Yes, it is highly curable even when the cancer has spread beyond the testicles. The treatment options will depend on the type and stage of testicular cancer you have. You may receive solo or a combination treatment. Regular self-examinations can help to detect growths early when the chances for successful treatment is the highest.
SYMPTOMS OF TESTICULAR CANCER
The signs and symptoms of testicular cancer are:
- Enlargement or a lump in either testicle
- The scrotum feels heavy
- Dull ache in the abdomen or groin
- Sudden collection of fluid in the scrotum
- Pain or discomfort in a testicle or the scrotum
- Enlargement or tenderness of the breasts
- Back pain
TREATMENT OPTIONS AVAILABLE FOR TESTICULAR CANCER
The type, stage of your cancer, overall health and your preferences will determine the best option for treating your cancer.
The operations used to treat testicular cancer include:
- Surgery to remove your testicle (radical inguinal orchiectomy): This is the primary treatment for almost all stages and types of testicular cancer. Your surgeon will make an incision in your groin and extract the entire testicle. A prosthetic (saline-filled) testicle can be inserted if you choose to.
- Surgery to remove nearby lymph nodes (retroperitoneal lymph node dissection): An incision is made in your abdomen. Your surgeon will be careful not to damage nerves surrounding the lymph nodes. However, in some cases, harm to the nerves may be unavoidable. This can cause difficulty in ejaculation but it won’t prevent erection.
Surgery may be the only treatment required in early-stage testicular cancer. Your doctor will recommend a plan of follow-up appointments if surgery is the only treatment required. During these appointments – normally every few months for the first few years and then subsequently less frequent, You will undergo blood tests, CT scans and other procedures to look for any signs of the cancer appearing again.
High-powered beams such as X-ray are used to kill cancer cells. You will be positioned on a table while a large machine moves around you aiming at precise points on your body.
This therapy is sometimes used to treat patients with seminoma testicular cancer. It is sometimes recommended after the surgery to remove your testicle. The side effects of radiation therapy include fatigue, skin redness and irritation in your abdominal and groin areas. It is also likely to cause infertility. Before beginning this therapy, speak to your doctor about your options for preserving sperm.
This treatment is used to kill cancer cells. The drugs travel throughout your body to kill any cancer cells that may have migrated from the original tumor. Chemotherapy may be recommended before or after lymph node removal surgery or it may be your only treatment.
The side effects vary depending on the drugs used. Speak to your doctor about what to expect. The common side effects are fatigue, nausea, hair loss and an increased risk of infection. Some of these side effects can be reduced with the help of medications and treatments. This treatment is also likely to cause infertility which can be permanent. Speak to your doctor about your options for preserving sperm prior to any treatment.
DIAGNOSING TESTICULAR CANCER
- History taking and physical examination: Your doctor will ask you questions about your overall health, symptoms you have and family medical history, as those, who have a family history of cancers are assumed to be more predisposed to have the same condition. Then your doctor will perform a physical examination of your body to look for any visible symptoms.
- Ultrasound: Sound waves are used to create an image of the testicles and scrotum. You will be required to lie on your back with your legs spread. A clear gel is then applied to your scrotum while a hand held probe is moved over the area to get the ultrasound image.
The image can help your doctor determine the nature of any lumps such as solid or fluid-filled. It will also be able to tell if your lumps are inside or outside the testicle.
- Blood tests:This test will be able to determine the level of the tumor markers in your blood. The tumor markers are substances that occur in your blood. However, these levels may be elevated in certain situations including testicular cancer. It doesn’t mean you definitely have cancer if your tumor marker is high. It’s a good idea to speak to your doctor in determining your diagnosis.
- Surgery to remove a testicle (radical inguinal orchiectomy): If your lump is suspected to be cancerous, surgery may be recommended to remove the testicle. The removed testicle will be examined to determine if it is cancerous and if so, what type of cancer.