This page discusses the use of radiation therapy for the treatment of testicular cancer. For a thorough review of radiation therapy for cancer treatment, please see the
radiation therapy treatment monograph
Radiation therapy is the use of penetrating beams of high-energy waves or streams of particles called radiation to treat disease. Radiation therapy destroys the ability of cancer cells to grow and divide.
Radiation therapy is used to treat some cases of seminoma testicular cancer. It is not used to treat non-seminomas.
Radiation Therapy for Seminoma Testicular Cancer
External radiation therapy is used to treat seminoma testicular cancer. In external radiation therapy, rays are directed at the tumor from outside the body.
to remove the testicle, radiation therapy is frequently used in the management of seminomas that have spread, or are suspected to have spread, to lymph nodes in the pelvis or retroperitoneum (back of the abdomen). If the nodes are very enlarged, or if there has been spread to other parts of the body, then
is typically recommended instead of radiation therapy.
Shortly after your surgery, you will come to the radiation oncology department for a procedure called simulation. This entails lying on a table in a room with a special x-ray machine. The doctor and therapist will put marks on your skin to set up the radiation beam.
Each radiation treatment takes only a few minutes. Treatments are typically given five days per week for four to five weeks. Your scrotum, with the remaining testicle, may be placed into a lead device called a “clamshell.” This is designed to protect your other testicle from radiation and, as much as possible, preserve your fertility.
Because a substantial percentage of your pelvis and abdomen will be radiated, you may develop some nausea and vomiting. Your doctor can give you medication beforehand to help with this.
Following orchiectomy, Stage I seminoma patients experience over a 90% cure rate with radiation therapy to the retroperitoneal and pelvic lymph nodes. Even those whose cancer recurs after radiation can often be cured with chemotherapy, leading to an overall cure rate of about 98%.
Stage IIA and IIB seminoma patients are cured by radiation therapy 80% to 90% of the time. Again, even if there is a recurrence after radiation therapy, the disease can often be cured with chemotherapy.
Patients with stage IIC or III seminoma are usually treated with chemotherapy rather than radiation therapy.
Side Effects and Possible Complications
Nausea is a common side effect of abdominal radiation. It may be prevented or minimized with appropriate medication [See
Managing the Side Effects of Cancer and Cancer Treatment
]. Diarrhea may occur in a small percentage of patients. Fatigue is a common side effect of radiation therapy.
Radiation is known to cause cancer, and there is an increased risk of other types of cancer in men who have received radiation therapy for testicular cancer. These other cancers typically occur many years after treatment, and the risk is small.
Although the chance of the cancer recurring is relatively low after radiation therapy for stage I and II seminoma, regular follow-up is essential. If the disease does recur, it is still curable with further treatment, and the chances of cure are higher with early detection. The follow-up schedule and tests will depend on the stage of your cancer.
When to Contact Your Health Care Provider
Contact your health care provider if you:
Develop side effects from the treatment
Develop new or unusual symptoms
Notice that your skin is red, blistered, or swollen
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care
provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a
substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER
IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the
advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to
starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a