Cancer of the Testes (aka testicular cancer) is a type of cancer that affects the testes. The testes are two ball-shaped organs located inside the scrotum, a loose bag of skin underneath the penis. The testes are responsible for the production of spermatozoa and other male sex hormones.
Compared with other types of cancer, testicular cancer is rare. It affects men between the ages of 15 – 34 years, and affects whites more than blacks. Cancer usually affects only one testis at a time, rarely, both are affected.
Testicular cancers are rare, accounting for 1% of malignancies in men. For unknown reasons, the number of men diagnosed with testicular cancer has been increasing over the last 40 years. However, death rates continue to slowly decline.
Testicular cancers are highly responsive to treatment and generally have a good prognosis. Treatment usually depends on the type and stage of cancer. Patient may be offered one of several treatments, or a combination.
Signs and symptoms of testicular cancer include:
- Lump or enlargement in either testicle
- Pain in the abdomen or groin
- Fluid collection in the scrotum
- Scrotal or testicular pain
- Breast enlargement
- Back pain
In most cases, it is not clear what the cause of testicular cancers is.
What we know is that testicular cancer occurs when healthy cells in a testicle become altered. Normally, cells in the body grow and divide in an orderly manner. However, some cells can develop abnormalities, causing their growth to get out of control. These cancer cells continue dividing even when new cells aren’t needed. The accumulating cells form a mass at whatever sites they are found, in this case, in the testicle.
Nearly all testicular cancers begin in the germ cells — the cells in the testicles that produce immature sperm. What causes germ cells to become abnormal and develop into cancer isn’t known.
Factors that may increase your risk of testicular cancer include:
- An undescended testicle (cryptorchidism)
- Conditions associated with abnormal testicular development such as Klinefelter syndrome
- Positive family history
- Age, especially between 15 – 34 years.
- Race, affects white men more than blacks.
Treatment of testicular tumors depends on stage of disease and patient preferences. Deciding what treatment is best for you can be difficult. Your cancer team will make recommendations, but the final decision will be yours.
Treatment options may include:
There’s no way to prevent testicular cancer. Doctors recommend regular testicle self-examinations to identify abnormal changes in the testes at its earliest stages. This may aid earlier diagnosis of testicular tumors, but not all doctors agree to the effectiveness of this approach.
References: WHO Fact Sheet on Cancer, Mayo Clinic
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