Introduction to Testicular Cancer
Testicular cancer is cancer of the testicles.
What is Testicular Cancer?
Testicular cancer is cancer of the testicles; it is not a common cancer accounting for only 1% of cancer in men and mostly affects young men between the ages of 15-49. The function of the testicles is to store and produce sperm for reproduction. Cancer occurs when normally dividing cells multiply uncontrollably and cause a tumour. If testicular cancer has not spread beyond the testicles it can usually be cured with surgery. There are different types of testicular cancer depending on which cell the cancer has spread from. The most common is called ‘germ cell’ cancer, which makes up 95% of all testicular cancers. The other less common types of testicular cancer include Leydig cell, Sertoli cell and lymphomas.
What are the causes for Testicular Cancer?
The causes of testicular cancer are not fully understood, however there are some things that put you at an increased risk of developing the condition. Having undescended testicles can put you at a higher risk of testicular cancer. Age and race can affect your chance of getting testicular cancer; the mostly likely group are white men between the ages of 30-34. Having a family history of testicular cancer is a risk factor as is being infertile. There is also evidence to suggest smoking can cause testicular cancer.
What are the symptoms of Testicular Cancer?
The most common symptom of testicular cancer is a lump or swelling in one of the testicles. The lump is usually about the size of a pea, but may be larger. Often there are other causes of lumps in the testicles so it is important to get checked over by a doctor if you notice a lump. Other symptoms people may experience are pain in the testicles, the feeling of heaviness in your scrotum, a collection of fluid in the scrotum and fatigue.
How is Testicular Cancer treated?
The treatment for testicular cancer depends on where the cancer is, if it has spread and what type of cancer it is. The main treatment is surgery to remove the affected testicle, called an orchidectomy. Depending on the cancer you may also need to have chemotherapy or radiotherapy. Having your testicles removed can often affect fertility, you may have the option of sperm banking, where you are able to freeze your sperm so in the future you can have children of your own via artificial insemination. As the testicles produce testosterone, having them removed will cause a reduction in this hormone resulting in a reduced libido (sex drive) and difficulty in achieving or maintaining an erection. Testosterone replacement therapy can help improve these symptoms and is given as either an injection or a patch. A specialist cancer doctor called an oncologist can provide further advice on the condition and the treatments.