Testicular cancer is a malignant growth of the testes (testicles) that are located in the scrotum. The function of the testes is to produce sperms for reproduction and male sex hormones and the tissue is very active with a high cell turnover. Testicular cancer is comparatively rare but tends to occur more frequently in younger males in their teens or early adulthood. Although the treatment for testicular cancer is effective, many patients tend to delay seeking treatment due to embarrassment. These delays affects the prognosis.
Types and Stages
Two types of testicular cancer are seen :
- Seminoma :
– Usually occurs in older males but can occur at any age.
– This is a less aggressive type of testicular cancer.
- Non-seminoma :
– This type of testicular cancer spreads rapidly.
– Usually occurs in younger people.
– More aggressive type of cancer.
Three stages of testicular cancer are seen :
- Stage I: Limited to the testicle only.
- Stage II:. With spread to the abdominal lymph nodes.
- Stage II:. Advanced stage with spread to other organ of the body such as liver, bones, brain or lungs.
Symptoms of testicular cancer include the following :
- Presence of lump or enlargement in either testicle.
- Pain in abdomen or groin.
- Feeling of heaviness in the scrotum.
- Collection of fluid in the scrotum.
- Feeling of discomfort in the scrotum.
- Enlarged or tender breasts.
The cause of testicular cancer is not known. It is usually a result of an abnormal and excessive growth of cells. Normally, cells multiples at a normal rate and when cells are required to replace damaged, worn out or dead cells. In testicular cancer certain changes occur in the cells of the testes that cause them to multiply continuously even when no cells are required causing abnormal tissue growth. It forms a mass in the testicle.
Certain disease such as Klinefelter syndrome in which there is abnormal growth of the testicles can further lead to testicular cancer. A person whose family member has testicular cancer is at a higher risk of developing the disease. Having undescended testicles puts a person at risk for testicular cancer. Cigarette smoking and radiation exposure are known risk factors for most cancers.
Routine self assessment of the testes can help in early diagnosis of the disease. Ultrasound and blood tests which involve determining the level of tumor markers in the body help in the diagnosis. A CT scan is used to determine spread of the disease and staging. Treatment can vary depending on the type and stage of cancer.
Surgical extraction of the testicle or radical inguinal orchiectomy is indicated in most cases of testicular cancer. The extracted testicle can be analyzed in the laboratory to determine further course of treatment. Retroperitoneal lymph node dissection may accompany this surgery if cancer is known to spread to the abdominal lymph nodes though only testicular excision may suffice early stages of cancer. After surgery the patient is appropriately monitored through follow up and tests for the recurrence of cancer.
If the cancer was extensive and there are signs of spread, radiation therapy and chemotherapy are also needed.
- Radiation therapy is another treatment option which is done usually in the seminoma type of cancer though side effects such as skin irritation and redness are common in radiation therapy.
- Chemotherapy involves administration of anti-cancer drugs which kill the cancer cells. It can be used if cancer has spread to other organs of the body. Chemotherapeutic drugs are used with caution due to their severe side effects.