TESTICULAR CANCER

General Facts that you should know!

The testicles are two male genital organs in which sperms are produced and stored until they are ejaculated from the body. They are also the organs that produce testosterone, a typical male hormone. The testicles are localized in a sack on the bottom of the penis called the scrotum.

Testicular cancer comes into being when abnormal cells are formed in the testicles and start multiplying. Testicular cancer frequently affects men of Caucasian ethnicity as compared to African-Americans and Asian-Americans. It is considered to be one of the most easily cured cancers with high success rates, especially if discovered at an early stage. It mostly affects men in between the ages of 20 – 35 years.

Symptoms and causes

The exact cause of testicular cancer is unknown, however there are situations that are likely to increase the chances of developing tumors in the testicles.

  • Undescended testicle – In most cases, the testicles descend to the scrotum even before birth or in the first three months after birth otherwise it is undescended.
  • Klinefelter syndrome – is a genetic disease that affects men.
  • Medical history of testicular cancer in the family. It is recommend that all men in between 15 and 40 years old should examine their testicles on a monthly basis, even if there may be no medical history of testicular cancer. Also, men in the higher risk group as mentioned above should get the examination from a specialist because there could be modifications (painless) that could easily be over looked in self-examination.

Common symptoms of testicular cancer:

  • Tumefaction or cystic formation in one or both testicles even with no testicular pain.
  • A ‘weight’ like sensation in the scrotum.
  • Painful discomfort in lower abdomen, pelvis or lower back.

Investigation and diagnosis

Most testicular anomalies are detected either by a self-examination or at a routine medical check. If testicular cancer is suspected then the doctor will request other tests to be conducted to confirm the diagnosis.

Treatment and prevention

Treatment therapies usually will start with a radical orchiectomy (Surgery) – the malignant testicle will be removed surgically from the body. Post-Surgery and considering the stage of the cancer and the patient’s prevailing health conditions, one of the following methods of treatment will be recommended:

  • Watchful waiting: the patient will be monitored by a doctor, but no medication will be prescribed
  • Radiotherapy: using high doses of x-ray to destroy the cancerous cells
  • Chemotherapy: strong medication to combat the tumor, usually recommended to men who have a more invasive type of cancer that affects lymph nodes or organs in the surrounding area
  • Additional surgery – Retroperitoneal lymph node dissection
  • Involves surgically removing the lymph nodes in the abdomen and lower back
  • Testicular ultrasound for diagnostics, doesn’t use x-rays or other kinds of potentially damaging radiations unlike some imagistic investigations to reproduce an image of the internal organs. It is safe to use it to determine the cause of testicular tumefaction or pain, also before surgically removing the testicle.
  • Blood tests to determine the level of tumor markers
  • Orchiectomy is used to confirm the testicular cancer diagnosis, it is a procedure that involves taking out the affected testicle and study its structure at a microscopic level biopsy. Once the testicular cancer is diagnosed, the next step is to determine the stage of the cancer. More investigations are required at this time such as CT scan, repeat tumor markers, NMR. There are 3 stages of testicle cancer, the first stage is when the cancer only affects the testicle, the second stage is when the cancer moves to the lymph nodes and the third stage is when cancer invades other parts of the body