The National Institutes of Health (NIH) says testicular cancer forms in one or both of a man's testicles, the two egg-shaped glands, located in the scrotum that produce and store sperm and are the main source of testosterone.
While it’s the most common type of cancer in men from age 15 to 35, testicular cancer is actually considered rare. Cancer.gov reports testicular cancer accounts for only one percent of all cancers in men in the United States.
Testicular cancer typically falls into two types: seminoma or nonseminoma. Seminomas are less aggressive. NIH says seminoma is usually just in the testes, but can spread to the lymph nodes.
The Mayo Clinic says nonseminoma tumors tend to develop earlier in life and grow and spread rapidly.
Some men have no symptoms. Others, according to Mayo Clinic, may notice a lump or enlargement in either testicle, a feeling of heaviness in the scrotum, a dull ache in the abdomen or groin, a sudden collection of fluid in the scrotum, pain or discomfort in a testicle or the scrotum, enlargement or tenderness of the breasts, unexplained fatigue or a general feeling of not being well. Cancer usually affects only one testicle.
The exact cause of testicular cancer is unknown but researchers believe certain factors may play a role. These include having an undescended testicle or abnormal testicle development. Family history of testicular cancer may increase the risk. And Cancer.gov says men who’ve had testicular cancer are at increased risk of developing cancer in the other testicle.
There is positive news. Testicular cancer is highly treatable. There are three main types of treatment.
One is surgery to remove the testicle and if need be, nearby lymph nodes in the groin.
Another option is radiation therapy. Cancer.gov says this method uses high-energy rays to kill cancer cells and shrink tumors. An important note, fertility may be in jeopardy with radiation. However, once the area heals, many men regain their fertility over a period of one to two years.
Chemotherapy treatment which uses drugs to kill testicular cancer cells is another option. Cancer.gov says when chemotherapy is given to testicular cancer patients; it’s usually after surgery to destroy cancerous cells that may remain in the body.
Unfortunately, there are no proven ways to prevent testicular cancer. NIH says a testicular self-examination performed on a monthly basis, however, may help detect such cancer at an early stage before it spreads. Finding testicular cancer early is important to successful treatment and survival.
Reviewed July 21, 2011
by Michele Blacksberg R.N.
Edited by Jody Smith