What Is Testicular Cancer?
The testicles are the two egg-shaped glands in males that are located in the scrotum and whose function is to produce testosterone and sperm.
Testicular cancer forms in the testicles most often starting in the germ cells when cancerous cells begin to grow in these cells forming tumor(s). The 2 types of testicular cancer are:
1. Seminomas which are sensitive to radiation, and
2. Non-seminomas which grow and spread quicker.
Symptoms of Testicular Cancer
Most men who get testicular cancer do not realise until it has spread because the symptoms begin to show in the later stages. Some of the symptoms are:
- Having a painless lump or swelling in the testicle
- Pain and discomfort in the testicle or scrotum
- Pain in the lower back, abdomen or groin
- Sudden accumulation of fluid in the scrotum
- A Feeling of heaviness in the scrotum
- Difference in how one testicle feels from the other
Causes of Testicular Cancer
There is no exact known cause for testicular cancer, however, there are some risk factors that men can watch out for to reduce the chance of getting this cancer.
These risk factors include:
- Having had testicular cancer before: A man who has had testicular cancer in one testicle is at a higher risk of developing the cancer again, than one who has not had it before.
- Family history: Having a close relative who has had testicular cancer puts a man at a high risk of getting the cancer.
Having undescended testicle (Cryptorchidism): Having a testicle that did not move down even after birth, puts a man at a higher risk of developing testicular cancer.
- Congenital abnormalities: Men born with abnormalities of the penis, kidneys or testicles also have a higher risk of getting testicular cancer than those who do not have any of those abnormalities.
- Mumps orchitis: Men with mumps that cause inflammation to the testicle also have a high risk of developing this type of cancer.
Inguinal hernia: This is a hernia that occurs in the groin and it can raise the risk for a man to get testicular cancer
Diagnosis of Testicular Cancer
The following can be done to diagnose testicular cancer:
- Physical exam: This is done during a doctor’s consultation. The doctor also finds out more information about your medical history to help in the diagnosis.
- Blood test: Used to check for tumor makers such as alpha-fetoprotein (AFP), however sometime the test may come out normal, yet the cancer is present.
- Ultrasound test: Using high-energy sound waves to form pictures of the testicles and scrotum.
- Other imaging tests: Images of the scrotum and testicles can also be taken using a Computerised tomography (CT) scan or Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) which gives more detailed images.
- Biopsy: This involves taking a sample of tissue from the testicle and looking at it under a microscope to check for cancer cells.
The treatment of testicular cancer depends on the stage of the cancer, overall health of the patient and their preference. The treatment options for this cancer are as follows:
- Surgery: Done to remove the lymph nodes in the abdomen (retroperitoneal lymph node dissection) or to remove the affected testicle (radical inguinal orchiectomy).
- Chemotherapy: It involves using anti-cancer drugs to kill the cancer cells.
- Radiotherapy: Using high-energy beams to kill the cancer cells or prevent them from spreading.
- High dose chemotherapy with stem cell transplant: It involves administering high doses of chemotherapy and replacing blood-forming cells which have been destroyed by the cancer treatment.
- Surveillance: This is whereby follow up is done to check the patient’s condition without using any treatment unless there are changes in the test results. It is used to check for early signs of testicular cancer.
Prevention of Testicular Cancer
It is difficult to prevent testicular cancer because it has no definite cause. However, by reducing the risk factors, one can be able to reduce their chance of developing this cancer. Some of the ways of reducing testicular cancer risk are:
- Having regular screening or a self-examination of the testicles
- Reducing exposure to toxins
- Eating healthy
- Exercising regularly
- Managing stress
- Getting treatment for conditions that increase the risk of getting testicular cancer such as Klinefelter syndrome.
Did you know that testicular cancer has a 95% survival rate if detected early?
Detecting testicular cancer at its early stage is important in making it more effective and affordable to treat and therefore it is advisable to get regular screening or learn how to do a regular testicular self-exam.
Share this information on testicular cancer with your loved ones and friends to help in fighting this cancer by helping men to understand the need for testicular self-exams.