Testicular cancer is cancer that starts in the testicles. The testicles are the male reproductive glands located in the scrotum.
The exact cause of testicular cancer is poorly understood. Factors that may increase a man's risk of developing testicular cancer are:
Testicular cancer is the most common cancer in young and middle-aged men. It can also occur in older men, and in rare cases, in younger boys.
White men are more likely than African American and Asian American men to develop this type of cancer.
There is no link between vasectomy and testicular cancer.
There are two main types of testicular cancer:
These cancers grow from germ cells, the cells that make sperm.
Seminoma: This is a slow-growing form of testicular cancer found in men in their 40s and 50s. The cancer is in the testes, but it can spread to the lymph nodes. Lymph node involvement is either treated with radiotherapy or chemotherapy. Seminomas are very sensitive to radiation therapy.
Nonseminoma: This more common type of testicular cancer tends to grow more quickly than seminomas.
Nonseminoma tumors are often made up of more than one type of cell, and are identified according to these different cell types:
A stromal tumor is a rare type of testicular tumor. They are usually not cancerous. The two main types of stromal tumors are Leydig cell tumors and Sertoli cell tumors. Stromal tumors usually occur during childhood.
There may be no symptoms. The cancer may look like a painless mass in the testes. If there are symptoms, they may include:
Symptoms in other parts of the body, such as the lungs, abdomen, pelvis, back, or brain, may also occur if the cancer has spread outside the testicles.
A physical examination typically reveals a firm lump (mass) in one of the testicles. When the health care provider holds a flashlight up to the scrotum, the light does not pass through the lump. This exam is called transillumination.
Other tests include:
Treatment depends on the:
Once cancer is found, the first step is to determine the type of cancer cell by examining it under a microscope. The cells can be seminoma, nonseminoma, or both.
The next step is to determine how far the cancer has spread to other parts of the body. This is called "staging."
Three types of treatment can be used.
Joining a support group where members share common experiences and problems can often help the stress of illness.
Testicular cancer is one of the most treatable and curable cancers.
The survival rate for men with early-stage seminoma (the least aggressive type of testicular cancer) is greater than 95%. The disease-free survival rate for Stage II and III cancers is slightly lower, depending on the size of the tumor and when treatment is begun.
Testicular cancer may spread to other parts of the body. The most common sites include the:
Complications of surgery can include:
Testicular cancer survivors are at increased risk of developing:
Also, long-term complications in cancer survivors may include:
If you think you may want to have children in the future, ask your provider about methods to save your sperm for use at a later date.
Call your provider if you have symptoms of testicular cancer.
Performing a testicular self-examination (TSE) each month may help detect testicular cancer at an early stage, before it spreads. Finding testicular cancer early is important for successful treatment and survival. However, testicular cancer screening is not recommended for the general population in the United States.
Reviewed By: Todd Gersten, MD, Hematology/Oncology, Florida Cancer Specialists & Research Institute, Wellington, FL. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.