What is testicular cancer?
Cancer develops when cells grow out of control. There are two main types of testicular tumors: seminoma and nonseminoma. Nonseminomas usually grow and spread more quickly than seminomas. Testicular cancer is easier to diagnose early than many cancers and it can often be cured.
Who gets testicular cancer?
Testicular cancer is rare and seldom deadly. There are only about 8,900 newly diagnosed cases annually, according to the American Cancer Society. However, most of these occur in young or middle-aged men, and it is the most common cancer among men ages 15 to 34. Usually, this cancer can be treated successfully, resulting in only around 400 deaths per year. Testicular cancer rates have been increasing worldwide over the past few decades, but it is still uncommon.
“Testicular cancer is very treatable and unique in the sense that even if it is diagnosed at an advanced stage, patients can be cured, and the majority of patients can still have a high quality of life for a very long time,” says Dr. Anthony Addesa, Director of Oncology Services at The Medical Group of South Florida.
What are the risk factors for testicular cancer?
There are few known risk factors for developing testicular cancer, and most men and boys who get this cancer have none of them. The known risk factors include having an undescended or deformed testicle, calcium deposits in one or both testicles, being HIV-positive, and having a family history of testicular cancer. Being tall also appears to be associated with a higher risk. Injury to the testicles does not appear to increase the risk of testicular cancer.
What are the symptoms of testicular cancer?
The testicles, part of the male reproductive system, make sperm and produce male hormones such as testosterone.
During its early stages, testicular cancer may not have any symptoms, or only vague symptoms such as a dull ache in the scrotum. It is usually discovered by feeling a lump in one of the testicles. However, some men do not develop symptoms until the later stages of cancer, when it is harder to treat. As testicular cancer progresses symptoms may include:
- A change in how one or both testicles feel
- Painless swelling or a lump in one testicle
- A dull ache or feeling of heaviness in the lower abdomen or the scrotum
- One testicle becoming larger than the other
- Pain in the back or abdomen
- Fluid build-up in the scrotum
- Trouble breathing or shortness of breath
- Weight loss
- Soreness in the breast area
If you notice swelling or any of these other symptoms, it is important to seek medical attention. While these symptoms may not be due to cancer, it is still critical to notify your primary care doctor.
How is testicular cancer diagnosed?
Early detection and treatment of cancer increase the likelihood of long-term survival. The process of diagnosis starts with a physical exam and health history, including how long symptoms have been present. The scrotum will be checked for lumps, pain, or other abnormalities, and samples of blood and urine may be taken for testing. An ultrasound of the scrotum may be done to help determine if there are other causes for symptoms.
If testicular cancer is suspected after a physical exam, ultrasound, and blood tests, the patient can have affected testicle surgically removed or go the non-surgical way with Radiation Oncology.
How is testicular cancer treated?
Treatment for testicular cancer depends on how advanced the cancer is when it is detected, how large tumors are, and whether they have spread to nearby lymph nodes or other parts of the body. Most cases of testicular cancer can be treated successfully and cured.
Surgery: The most common treatment for testicular cancer is the surgical removal of the testicle that contains the tumors and the attachedspermatic cord. In more advanced cases, lymph nodes may be removed as well. Usually, removal of one testicle does not lead to infertility, but sperm may be collected and frozen for future use prior to testicle removal.
Radiation: Radiation may be used to kill cancer cells that remain after surgery or to shrink tumors that cannot be surgically removed. This has become a common non-surgical treatment and can be used in conjunction with other forms of treatment.
Chemotherapy: Traditional chemotherapy works by killing fast-growing cells, including cancer cells. It can also destroy rapidly dividing healthy cells, such as those in the gut or hair follicles, leading to side effects like nausea and hair loss.
Targeted therapy: Targeted drugs work against cancers with specific characteristics. For example, they may interfere with signaling pathways that regulate cell growth. Targeted treatment is often better tolerated than chemotherapy, but cancer may develop resistance over time.
Immunotherapy: The newest type of treatment helps the immune system fight cancer. Because testicular cancer is uncommon and often curable with surgery, immune-based therapy has not been widely studied for this type of cancer.
Your diagnosis will determine which form of therapy is best for you. Surgical removal of the testicle is a highly effective treatment for testicular cancer but is not a guarantee. That is why Dr. Addesa has been seeing more patients opting for Radiation Oncology before surgical removal.
Even if you have just been diagnosed with cancer, schedule a consultation with Dr. Addesa to learn about your options.
Questions? Talk to Dr. Anthony Addesa or call 561-622-6111 to find out more information.