Testicular Cancer: Causes and Treatment
Testicular cancer mainly affects young men between the ages of 20 and 39. It is also more common in men who have had abnormal testicle development, have had an undescended testicle, or have a family history of testicular cancer. Symptoms include pain, swelling, or lumps in your testicles or groin area. A urologist will use a physical exam, lab tests, imaging tests, and surgery to diagnose testicular cancer. Most cases can be treated, especially if found early. Treatment options include surgery, radiation, and/or chemotherapy. Regular exams after treatment are important.
What is Testicular Cancer?
Testicular cancer is a malignant tumor that starts in the cells of a testicle. Malignant means that it can spread, or metastasize, to other parts of the body.
Cells in a testicle sometimes change and no longer grow or behave normally. In some cases, changes to testicle cells can cause cancer. More than 90 percent of all testicular cancers are germ cell tumors. Germ cells are cells in the testicles that make sperm. The 2 main types of germ cell tumors that develop in the testicles are called seminomas and non-seminomas.
The cause of this particular cancer is unknown, but doctors do know that men who were born with an undescended or partly descended testicle are five times more likely to develop testicular cancer. Other research has suggested that there may be a hereditary factor involved, and that if you have a father or brother who has developed the disease you are at an increased risk.
Testicular cancer may not cause any signs or symptoms in its early stages because the tumor is very small. Symptoms often appear once the tumor grows into surrounding tissues and structures. Other health conditions can cause the same symptoms as testicular cancer. See your doctor if you have these symptoms:
- Painless lump in the testicle
- Swelling so the testicle is larger than usual
- Pain or dull ache in the testicle or scrotum
- Feeling of heaviness in the scrotum or abdomen
- Buildup of fluid in the scrotum
- Enlarged lymph nodes in the neck
- Pain in the back or abdomen
- Trouble breathing or shortness of breath
- Cough, sometimes with blood (called hemoptysis)
- Chest pain
- Trouble swallowing
- Swelling in the chest
- Buildup of fluid around the lungs (called pleural effusion)
- Buildup of fluid in the abdomen (called ascites)
- Weight loss
- Breast soreness or growth (called gynecomastia)
- Signs of puberty in boys at an earlier age than expected, such as the voice getting deeper and growth of facial and body hair
· Treatments for testicular cancer
If you have testicular cancer, your healthcare team will create a treatment plan just for you. It will be based on your needs and may include a combination of different treatments. When deciding which treatments to offer for testicular cancer, your healthcare team will consider:
- The type of germ cell tumor (if it is a seminoma or non-seminoma)
- The stage of the cancer
- The risk of recurrence
- Your wish to have children (fertility)
- Your personal preferences
- You may be offered the following treatments for testicular cancer:
The following types of surgery can be used to treat testicular cancer:
· Radical inguinal orchiectomy removes the testicle and spermatic cord: It is usually the first treatment for testicular cancer, and it is done to confirm the diagnosis.
· Retroperitoneal lymph node dissection (RPLND) This is the surgery to remove lymph nodes at the back of the abdomen (which is called the retroperitoneum). If the lymph nodes on the same side of the body as the tumor are removed, it is called ipsilateral RPLND. If the lymph nodes on both sides of the retroperitoneum are removed, it is called bilateral RPLND. This surgery may be done at the same time as the radical inguinal orchiectomy, or done later. RPLND can be part of treatment for early stages of testicular cancer. It can also be used to treat advanced testicular cancer after chemotherapy.
· Salvage surgery: This type of surgery removes cancer that remains after orchiectomy and chemotherapy. It may be done when testicular cancer doesn’t completely respond to chemotherapy that is given after an orchiectomy. Salvage surgery may include a bilateral RPLND.
To learn more about testicular cancer and how to treat it, call Charlotte Men’s Health at (704) 786-5131 to request an appointment. On Tuesday May 2, 2017, there will be a seminar at Carolina Family Healthcare at 11220 Elm Lane, Suite 102 in Charlotte, NC. Partners and guests are welcome. Registration starts at 5:45PM and the Seminar’s at 6:00PM. Space is limited, so make sure you register today!