WHAT IS TESTICULAR CANCER?

Cancer of the testicle is one of the less common cancers and tends to mostly affect men between 15 and 49 years of age. Typical symptoms are a painless swelling or lump in one of the testicles, or any change in shape or texture of the testicles. It’s important to be aware of what feels normal for you. Get to know your body and see your GP if you notice any changes.

The most common type of testicular cancer is “germ cell testicular cancer”, which accounts for around 95% of all cases. Germ cells are a type of cell that the body uses to create sperm.

There are two main subtypes of germ cell testicular cancer. They are:

seminomas – which have become more common in the past 20 years and now account for 50 to 55% of testicular cancers

non-seminomas – which account for most of the rest and include teratomas, embryonal carcinomas, choriocarcinomas and yolk sac tumours

Both types tend to respond well to chemotherapy.

Less common types of testicular cancer include:

Leydig cell tumours – which account for around 1 to 3% of cases

Sertoli cell tumours – which account for around 1% of cases

lymphoma – which accounts for around 4% of cases

Please consult your GP for advice or diagnosis.

WHO IS AT RISK?

The exact cause or causes of testicular cancer are unknown, but a number of factors have been identified that increase a man’s risk of developing it. The three main risk factors are described below.

Undescended testicles

Undescended testicles (cryptorchidism) is the most significant risk factor for testicular cancer.

Around 3 to 5% of boys are born with their testicles inside their abdomen. They usually descend into the scrotum during the first year of life, but in some boys the testicles don’t descend.

Family history

Having a close relative with a history of testicular cancer or an undescended testicle increases your risk of also developing it.

For example, if your father had testicular cancer, you’re around 4 times more likely to develop it than someone with no family history of the condition. If your brother had testicular cancer, you’re about 8 times more likely to develop it.

Current research suggests a number of genes may be involved in the development of testicular cancer in families where more than one person has had the condition. This is an ongoing area of research in which patients and their families may be asked to take part.

Previous testicular cancer

Men who’ve previously been diagnosed with testicular cancer are between 4 and 12 times more likely to develop it in the other testicle.

TESTICULAR CANCER SYMPTOMS

typical symptoms are a painless swelling or lump in one of the testicles, or any change in shape or texture of the testicles.

The swelling or lump can be about the size of a pea but may be larger.

Most lumps or swellings in the scrotum aren’t in the testicle and aren’t a sign of cancer, but they should never be ignored.

Other symptoms

Testicular cancer can also cause other symptoms, including:

an increase in the firmness of a testicle

a difference between one testicle and the other

a dull ache or sharp pain in your testicles or scrotum, which may come and go

a feeling of heaviness in your scrotum

TESTICULAR CANCER DIAGNOSIS

See your GP as soon as possible if you notice a swelling, lump or any other change in one of your testicles. 

Most lumps within the scrotum aren’t cancerous, but it’s important to get checked as soon as possible. Treatment for testicular cancer is much more effective when started early.

TESTICULAR CANCER TREATMENTS

Chemotherapy, radiotherapy and surgery are the three main treatments for testicular cancer.

Your recommended treatment plan will depend on:

the type of testicular cancer you have – whether it’s a seminoma or a non-seminoma

the stage of your testicular cancer

The first treatment option for all cases of testicular cancer, whatever the stage, is to surgically remove the affected testicle (an orchidectomy).

For stage one seminomas, after the testicle has been removed, a single dose of chemotherapy may be given to help prevent the cancer returning. A short course of radiotherapy is also sometimes recommended.

However, in many cases, the chance of recurrence is low and your doctors may recommend that you’re very carefully monitored over the next few years. Further treatment is usually only needed for the small number of people who have a recurrence.

FAQ

How common is prostate cancer?

Over 47,000 men in the UK are diagnosed with prostate cancer each year. It has become the most common cancer in men overtaking lung cancer. With PSA testing on the increase and an ageing population, incidence is predicted to rise ahead of breast cancer over the next decade.

Who does prostate cancer affect?

95% of all prostate cancer patients are aged between 45 and 80. The majority of men are aged over 60.

What causes prostate cancer?

Is there anything I can do to reduce the risk of developing it? Men with a brother or father with prostate cancer have an increased risk. When symptoms occur they may include difficulties in urinating or pain and/or stiffness in the lower back and hips. However these symptoms are more commonly caused by other conditions. If you have concerns, you should consult with your GP.

How is prostate cancer diagnosed?

Early diagnosis of prostate cancer is important for successful treatment. Diagnosis methods include the PSA Blood Test, which tests the level of rostate Specific Antigen in the blood; digital rectal examinations to feel the size of the prostate gland and biopsies which take tiny samples of tissue from the prostate.

How is prostate cancer treated?

Some prostate cancers grow so slowly that no treatment is needed. Instead, a policy of watch and wait is employed to monitor the condition. When more active treatment is required surgery, radiotherapy, hormone therapy or a combination of these treatments are used.

What You Should Do

To find out more about prostate cancer diagnosis, symptoms, treatment, and who’s most at risk.

Will any treatment affect my sex drive and will I still be able to father children?

Different treatments for prostate cancer can cause impotence, reduced ejaculation, a lowered sex drive, urinary incontinence, bowel problems, hot flushes and sweats and tiredness. Surgery, radiotherapy and hormone therapy all have different side effects which need to be considered in any decisions about treatment

Is the chance of developing prostate cancer influenced by dietary or environmental factors?

Eating a diet high in animal fat and low in fresh fruit, vegetables and fish and being exposed to cadmium (a heavy metal) or ‘radiation’ have been identified as possible risk factors. Some preliminary research suggests that Lycopene (the compound that gives the tomato its red colour), selenium and vitamin E in the diet could play a preventative role in the development.

What You Should Do?

To find out more about prostate cancer diagnosis, symptoms, treatment, and who’s most at risk.

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