What is Testicular Cancer?

By Dr Ananya Mandal, MD

Testicular cancer is one of the less common cancers to affect men. This cancer usually develops in men aged between 15 and 49 years and the most common initial symptom is a lump or swelling in the testicle.

The treatment of testicular cancer is more effective when the condition is diagnosed early and men are advised to check their testicles every month and to seek medical attention quickly if they find any abnormalities.

Aside from a lump or swelling in the testicle, other symptoms that may manifest include:

  • A dull or sharp pain in the scrotum or testicles
  • A sensation of heaviness in the scrotum
  • A sudden accumulation of fluid in the scrotum, referred to as a hydrocele
  • Tiredness
  • General feeling of malaise

The testicles

The testicles are the two male reproductive organs located in the scrotum that sit on either side of the penis. These organs produce sperm and the male hormone testosterone, which is crucial for male sexual sexual development.

Types of testicular cancer

Testicular cancer is classified in different ways based on the type of cell the cancer originates in. The different cancer types are described below:

  • Germ cell testicular cancer is the most common form of testicular cancer, accounting for approximately 95% of all cases. Germ cells are the cells from which sperm are created. There are two main subtypes of germ cell testicular cancer:
    • Seminomas, which make up around 40% to 45% of these cancers
    • Non-seminomas, which also account for 40 % to 45% of cases

These two forms of cancer tend to respond well to an anti-cancer therapy (chemotherapy), which kills cancer cells.

Other less common types of testicular cancer include:

  • Sertoli cell tumors, which account for about 1% of cases.
  • Leydig cell tumors, which account for about 1% to 3% of cases
  • Lymphoma accounts for about 4% of cases.

Diagnosis and treatment

A diagnosis of testicular cancer is suspected based on findings from a physical examination, an ultrasound scan and blood tests. The only way to confirm a diagnosis, however, is for a biopsy of the tumor tissue to be taken and checked for the presence of cancer cells.

Testicular cancer is one of the most treatable forms of cancer, with a cure rate of more than 96% among men with early-stage disease. The cure rate is also high (80%) among those with more advanced disease that has spread to tissue outside of the testicles. Treatment involves surgical removal of the affected testicle (orchidectomy), chemotherapy and sometimes radiotherapy.

Reviewed by , BSc

Further Reading

Last Updated: Sep 16, 2014

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