Testicular cancer is the cancer of the male reproductive organs which affects the testis. This cancer is prevalent among all age groups, but it is mostly seen in people of age group 20 to 45 years. Testicular cancer mostly starts from the germ cell, the cells that make sperms.
There are two common types of cancer that arise from the germ cell, the seminomas and the non-seminomas. The seminomas are further classified into classical seminoma and spermatocytic seminoma. The classical seminoma accounts to 95% of the seminoma cancer which is prevalent in the younger adult of age group 25 to 45 years. Whereas the spermatocytic seminoma is rare cancer visible in older patients.
The non-seminomas are observed in men who are in their late teens and early 30’s. The four types of non-seminomas are an embryonal carcinoma, yolk sac carcinoma, choriocarcinoma which is an aggressive and very rare form of cancer and teratoma.
Signs and Symptoms
The signs and >symptoms associated with testicular cancer include
- A swelling or lump formation in the scrotum
- Shrinking in the size of the scrotum
- A feeling of heaviness in the scrotum
- Breast formation or soreness of the chest due to release of β-human chorionic gonadotropin
- Pain in the lower abdomen, chest and head due to the spread of cancer
- Early puberty in boys
- General weakness and loss of appetite
Causes and Risk factors
Testicular cancer may occur due to changes in certain genes that cause cancer. Mutations in these genes are the main cause of cancer. A family history of the patient whose father or brother had testicular cancer is a cause of spreading of cancer.
The risk factors for testicular cancer include:
- Smoking: Smoking is known to increase the risk of testicular cancer.
- An undescended testicle: Testis usually slides into the scrotum during birth. Due to any defect, if one or both testis fails to slide into the scrotum, it increases the risk of testicular cancer.
- A family history of testicular cancer has increased the risk of a person of developing cancer.
- HIV infection: The infection of HIV mostly AIDS is known to increase the risk of testicular cancer. However, no other infection is known to increase the risk of testicular cancer.
- Age: People of the age group of 20-34 are at an increased risk of developing cancer.
Testicular cancer is primarily diagnosed through physical examination. Further tests are conducted to confirm the cancer of the testicles. The diagnostic tests performed to confirm the presence of tumours are ultrasound, test for tumour markers, imaging scan and biopsy test.
- Ultrasound: It is one of the first tests conducted to confirm the presence of testicular cancer. The test provides computerised images of the abdomen and the scrotum. It can detect the presence of tumour and the spread of cancer to the surrounding organs.
- Tumour markers: A Blood sample is collected to detect the presence of tumour markers in the body. The test for tumour markers for testicular cancer includes alpha-fetoprotein (AFP) and human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG).
- Imaging tests: Radiographic tests such as x-ray scan, CT scan, MRI scan, PET scan and bone scan are performed to confirm the presence of tumour in the testicles. It also detects the spread of infection to the surrounding organs and the bones in the body.
- Biopsy: A tissue sample is collected by inserting a tube into the scrotum. The tissue is the placed under the microscope to detect the change in the tumour cell. A biopsy is the most efficient method in the diagnosis of testicular cancer.
Treatment for testicular cancer include the following treatment procedures. They are surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy.
- Surgery is the most efficient mode of treatment of testicular cancer. Radical inguinal orchiectomy is a procedure adopted for all testicular cancers. The incision is made into the scrotum and one or both of the testes. The testis along with the surrounding affected cells are removed during surgery. Laparoscopic method is also used in the treatment of testicular cancer.
- It uses high beam ray to kill the tumour in the scrotum. It is most effective in treating seminoma which is highly sensitive to radiation therapy. Radiation therapy is used in combination either with chemotherapy of surgery to kill the tumour cells completely. It used after the surgery to kill the tumour cells completely that is left behind after the surgery.
- It is the treatment of a tumour using anti-cancer agents. These drugs are either administered orally or through the veins. This mode of treatment is often used when cancer spreads outside the testicles.
Coping and Support
You may feel distressed because of the cancer diagnosis. But, you should find ways to cope with the disease and the treatment for better outcomes and good quality-of-life.
Learn about the disease and the treatment options available, so that you can make decisions for your care. You may need physical and emotional support when you are in the hospital or after returning home. So, keep your family and friends close and make them understand your condition.