The testicles, the male reproductive organs that produce sperm and the hormone testosterone, are the site of testicular cancer, an uncommon but treatable form of cancer. Although testicular cancer is relatively uncommon, it is the most common type of cancer found in young men between the ages of 15 and 35.
There are two types of testicular cancer: seminomas and non-seminomas. Seminomas are slower-growing and less aggressive, while non-seminomas tend to grow more quickly and spread more aggressively to other parts of the body.
In this blog post, we’ll take a closer look at these different types of testicular cancer, as well as the causes, symptoms, and treatment options available for those who are diagnosed with this disease. We’ll also provide some tips for reducing your risk of developing testicular cancer and for managing your health after a diagnosis.
What Is Testicular Cancer?
The male reproductive organs known as the testicles, which also produce the hormone testosterone and sperm, are where testicular cancer typically originates. The cancerous cells can grow and multiply uncontrollably, forming a mass or tumor within the testicle. Testicular cancer is relatively rare, accounting for less than 1% of all cancers in men. However, it is the most common type of cancer in young men between the ages of 15 and 35.
Numerous risk factors have been found, even though the root causes of testicular cancer are not fully understood. These include a family history of testicular cancer, undescended testicles (when one or both testicles fail to move from the abdomen into the scrotum during fetal development), and abnormal testicular development.
Symptoms of testicular cancer can include a painless lump or swelling in one of the testicles, a feeling of heaviness or discomfort in the scrotum, and a dull ache or pain in the lower abdomen or groin. In some cases, there may be a sudden buildup of fluid in the scrotum or breast enlargement or tenderness (due to hormonal changes).
Treatment for testicular cancer typically involves surgery to remove the affected testicle (called an orchidectomy) and may also include radiation therapy, chemotherapy, or a combination of these treatments. The prognosis for testicular cancer is generally very good, with a high cure rate even for advanced cases.
It’s important to perform regular self-exams of the testicles and to seek medical attention if you notice any changes or abnormalities. The likelihood of a positive outcome can be significantly increased by early detection and treatment.
Types of testicular cancer
The two most common subtypes of testicular cancer are seminomas and non-seminomas. Seminomas are slow-growing tumors that are usually confined to the testicle and tend to respond well to radiation therapy. Non-seminomas, on the other hand, are a more aggressive type of testicular cancer that tend to grow more quickly and spread more easily to other parts of the body. Non-seminomas are typically treated with surgery to remove the affected testicle (orchidectomy) and may also require additional treatments like chemotherapy or radiation therapy.
Within the category of non-seminomas, there are several subtypes of testicular cancer, including:
- Embryonal carcinoma: This is the most common type of non-seminoma testicular cancer, accounting for about 40% of cases. It tends to grow and spread quickly, but it also responds well to chemotherapy.
- Yolk sac tumor: This type of testicular cancer is most often seen in young children, but can also occur in young men. It is a highly curable cancer and responds well to chemotherapy.
- Choriocarcinoma: This testicular cancer is uncommon and extremely aggressive, and it has the potential to spread fast to the lungs and brain, among other organs. Radiation therapy and chemotherapy are frequently used together as a treatment.
- Teratoma: This is a type of non-seminoma testicular cancer that is made up of cells from more than one type of tissue. It can be slow-growing and may not require treatment if it is small and non-aggressive, but larger teratomas are usually treated with surgery, chemotherapy, or both.
It’s important to note that some testicular cancers may have features of both seminomas and non-seminomas and are known as mixed germ cell tumors. Treatment for these tumors may depend on the specific types of cells present in the tumor.
Symptoms of Testicular Cancer
Testicular cancer may not cause any noticeable symptoms in its early stages, but as the tumor grows and spreads, it can cause a range of symptoms. Below mentioned are the most common symptoms of testicular cancer:
- A lump or swelling in one of the testicles: This is usually painless and may feel firm or hard to the touch.
- A feeling of heaviness or discomfort in the scrotum: This may be accompanied by a dull ache or pain in the lower abdomen or groin.
- Breast enlargement or tenderness: Testicular cancer can produce hormones that cause breast tissue to grow or become tender.
- A sudden buildup of fluid in the scrotum: This can cause swelling and discomfort.
- Back pain: If the cancer has spread to other parts of the body, it may cause back pain or other symptoms in the affected area.
It’s important to note that these symptoms can be caused by conditions other than testicular cancer, but if you experience any of these symptoms, you should see a doctor as soon as possible. Testicular cancer is highly treatable, but early detection and treatment are crucial for a successful outcome. Regular self-exams of the testicles can help you detect any changes or abnormalities early on.
Causes of Testicular Cancer
The exact causes of testicular cancer are not fully understood, but there are several risk factors that may increase a man’s chance of developing the disease. Below mentioned are the most common risk factors for testicular cancer:
- Age: Even though it can happen at any age, testicular cancer is most frequently discovered in men between the ages of 15 and 35.
- Family history: Testicular cancer is more likely to affect men who have a history of the disease in their families.
- Abnormal testicular development: Men born with certain conditions that affect the development of the testicles, such as undescended testicles or a condition called Klinefelter syndrome, have a higher risk of developing testicular cancer.
- Personal history: Men who have previously had testicular cancer have a higher risk of developing it again.
- Race: White men have a higher risk of testicular cancer than men of other races.
- HIV infection: Testicular cancer is more likely to affect men with HIV.
- Exposure to certain chemicals: Exposure to chemicals like pesticides and organochlorines may increase the risk of testicular cancer.
It’s important to note that having one or more of these risk factors does not necessarily mean that you will develop testicular cancer. Most men with testicular cancer do not have any known risk factors.
Treatment of Testicular Cancer
Testicular cancer treatment is based on the type and stage of the disease, the patient’s general health, and personal preferences. Below mentioned are the common treatments for testicular cancer:
- Surgery: The primary treatment for testicular cancer is surgery to remove the affected testicle, a procedure called radical inguinal orchiectomy. If the cancer has spread to nearby lymph nodes, these may also be removed during surgery.
- Radiation therapy: High-energy radiation is used after surgery to kill any remaining cancer cells or to treat cancer that has spread to nearby lymph nodes.
- Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy uses drugs to kill cancer cells. It may be used after surgery to kill any remaining cancer cells or to treat cancer that has spread to other parts of the body.
- Surveillance: For some men with early-stage testicular cancer, active surveillance may be recommended. This involves regular check-ups and imaging tests to monitor for any signs of cancer recurrence.
A mix of therapies may be suggested in many situations. With early detection and proper treatment, the outlook for testicular cancer is generally very good, with a high cure rate.
In conclusion, testicular cancer is a relatively rare but highly treatable form of cancer that occurs in the testicles. There are two main types of testicular cancer: seminomas and non-seminomas, each with different subtypes. Testicular cancer can cause a range of symptoms, including a lump or swelling in the testicle, discomfort in the scrotum, breast enlargement or tenderness, fluid buildup in the scrotum, and back pain.
The exact causes of testicular cancer are not fully understood, but there are several risk factors that may increase a man’s chance of developing the disease, including age, family history, abnormal testicular development, personal history, race, HIV infection, and exposure to certain chemicals.
Testicular cancer treatment is based on the type and stage of the disease, the patient’s general health, and personal preferences. The most common treatments for testicular cancer include surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, and active surveillance.
If you experience any symptoms or are concerned about your risk of testicular cancer, it’s important to talk to your doctor. Dr. Saket Narnoli, a renowned urologist, specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of testicular cancer. With early detection and proper treatment, the outlook for testicular cancer is generally very good, with a high cure rate.