What is Testicular Cancer?
Testicular Cancer is a cancer of the testicles. The testicles are located in the scrotum just below the penis. The function of the testicles is to produce sperms for reproduction. Testicular Cancer is a rare condition but is quite common in Americans between the ages of 15-30.
Testicular Cancer is perfectly treatable even if it has spread beyond the testicle. Depending on the type and stage of the cancer, treatments may be formulated for optimal results. The best time for treating Testicular Cancer is when it is diagnosed in its initial stages.
What are the Causes of Testicular Cancer?
In majority of the cases the cause for Testicular Cancer is not clear but it seems to occur mostly in people who have had a condition called undescended testicles and have been treated for it. Almost all Testicular Cancers start in the cells in the testicles which produce immature sperm. These cells are called as germ cells.
What are the Risk Factors for Testicular Cancer?
Some of the risk factors for Testicular Cancer are:
- Undescended Testicle: This is a condition in which a baby is born with the testicle not in its usual place in the scrotum and below the penis. Although this is a benign condition but it poses a risk for the child to develop Testicular Cancer at a later stage in life.
- Abnormal Testicular Development: Medical conditions like Klinefelter's syndrome in which the testicles develop abnormally increases the risk of Testicular Cancer.
- Family History: An individual with a family history of Testicular Cancer is also at risk for developing this condition at a later stage.
- Age: Testicular Cancer affects males between the ages of 15-30, although there is no age barrier in development of Testicular Cancer.
What are the Symptoms of Testicular Cancer?
Some of the symptoms of Testicular Cancer are:
- Formation of a lump in the testicle either one or both
- Feeling of heaviness in the scrotum
- Aching in the abdomen or groin
- Fluid collection in the scrotum
- Testicular pain
- Breast tenderness
- Back pain.
How is Testicular Cancer Diagnosed?
In some cases, a self diagnosis is enough to diagnose Testicular Cancer when an individual feels a lump or enlargement of the testicle. In other cases, a physician may notice a lump in the scrotum during a routine physical examination. For further confirmation of the diagnosis of Testicular Cancer, the physician may do the following:
Ultrasound: An ultrasound will be done of the testicles to look for any abnormal growth within the testis. It will also show whether the lump is solid or is fluid filled. It will also help the physician determine if the suspected lump is inside or outside of the testicle.
Blood Tests: These will be done to check for tumor markers. Tumor markers are those substances which are present in blood normally but their levels are substantially elevated in cases of a tumor. A high levels of tumor markers will confirm a diagnosis of Testicular Cancer.
What is the Treatment for Testicular Cancer?
Several factors play a role in treatment of Testicular Cancer which includes the age of the patient, the type and stage of the cancer, overall health of the patient. Testicular Cancer is basically treated by surgery followed by radiation and chemotherapy.
Surgeries done to treat Testicular Cancer are:
Radical Inguinal Orchiectomy to Treat Testicle Cancer: This is the primary treatment for Testicular Cancer. This procedure involves removal of the offending testicle altogether. In case if the patient requires, a prosthetic testicle filled with saline can be implanted.
Retroperitoneal Lymph Node Dissection to Treat Testicle Cancer: This surgery is done to remove the surrounding lymph nodes near the offending testicle. The surgeon makes sure while doing this procedure to not harm nerves which may pose problems in the future with erection but in some cases nerves do tend to get injured which is an inherent risk for this surgical procedure.
Once surgery is completed, it will be followed by radiation therapy for testicle cancer. This will be done to kill all the cancer cells in and around the testicular area. Radiation therapy may also be done as a form of treatment option for Testicular Cancer for people who do not have surgery as an option. Radiation therapy will then be followed by chemotherapy. This is usually done after lymph node removal surgery.
Chemotherapy has its many side effects to include hair loss, nausea, vomiting, and fatigue to name a few. It may also cause infertility which may be permanent.
What is the Survival Rate for Testicular Cancer?
In people with Testicular Cancer which has not spread, the survival rate is quite high up to 99% for a five year term. Even if the cancer has spread to surrounding structures people still have a relatively good prognosis from Testicular Cancer unless it has spread to vital organs of the body in which case the survival rate for a five year term goes down to 75% from Testicular Cancer.