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Testicular cancer primarily affects younger men and is the most common form of cancer in men aged between 15 and 44.
Testicular cancer is still quite rare, with nearly 2,000 new cases a year in the UK.
Since 1975, the incidence of testicular cancer has more than doubled – and the reasons for this are not yet known.
Thanks to advances made at the Everyman Centre testicular cancer is, with treatment, 97% curable. And that figure rises to 99% curable if it’s caught in the early stages.
Testicular cancer causes around 70 deaths every year in the UK.
What is Testicular Cancer?
Testicular cancer develops from within the cells in the testes. It usually presents itself as a lump in the testicle. Regular self examination can help to detect this cancer at an early stage. If the cancer is not treated at an early stage, cancer cells can break away and spread to nearby lymph nodes or other organs. If a lump or change in the testicles is identified, a GP will arrange for a diagnostic test to indicate if the lump is benign or a possible cancerous tumour. Most lumps are not cancerous but it is important to get yourself checked out by your GP to be sure.
Testicular Cancer Risk Factors
Testicular cancer is diagnosed more frequently in the young and middle-aged than in elderly men. It is most common in men aged between 15-44.
Undescended testis at birth
A significant risk factor, this condition may increase the risk of testicular cancer by five to ten times.
Inherited genetic factors are important in testicular cancer. Having a father, brother or son who has had testicular cancer increases the risk of getting the disease. If you have a brother affected with testicular cancer you are up to 10 times more likely to also get the disease than a man without any family history. This risk is exceptionally high when compared to other cancer types.
Previous testicular cancer
Having had testicular cancer before increases the risk of developing cancer in the other testicle. However, cancer in both testicles is extremely rare.
Race and ethnicity
Testicular cancer is most common in Caucasians. With the exception of New Zealand Maoris, the disease is rare in non-Caucasian populations. We do not know enough about what causes testicular cancer to occur or how to prevent it. Everyman is carrying out the research to find the answers.
Testicular Cancer Signs and Symptoms
Regular self-examination will help you become more aware of the normal feel and size of your testicles so that any abnormalities can be spotted early on.
• A lump in either testicle
• Any enlargement of the testicle
• A feeling of heaviness in the scrotum
• A dull ache in the abdomen or groin
• A sudden collection of fluid in the scrotum
• Growth or tenderness of the upper chest
If you do have any of these symptoms, don’t just wait and hope that they disappear – go and get checked out by your doctor. Most lumps are not cancerous but the earlier you find out, the earlier you can get any necessary treatment. And remember – if caught early, testicular cancer is 99% curable.
Testicular Cancer Diagnosis If your doctor thinks that you might be suffering from testicular cancer, he is likely to recommend one or more of the following options:
• Referral to a surgeon
• A blood test
• A biopsy
• An X-Ray
• An ultrasound scan
These tests are firstly to determine whether you have testicular cancer and secondly, to discover to what extent, if any, the cancer might have spread.
Testicular Cancer Treatment
If caught early and the cancer has not spread, treatment will ordinarily be the surgical removal of the cancerous testicle. If the cancer has spread, this will usually be followed by a three to four month course of chemotherapy. Treatment for testicular cancer may be very intensive, but most patients cured of testicular cancer have no long-term side effects from treatment. It is extremely likely that both your fertility and your sex life will recover after the end of your treatment. If you have a testicle surgically removed, you should have the option to have a prosthetic replacement fitted. The remaining, healthy testicle tends to be able to produce enough sperm to compensate for the loss. Thanks to advances made at the Everyman Centre, testicular cancer is 99% curable if caught early. With treatment, the overall cure rate is over 95%
Testicular Cancer FAQs
How common is testicular cancer? Testicular cancer is the most common form of cancer in young men, mostly between the ages of 15 and 44. Since 1975, the incidence of testicular cancer has more than doubled. There are nearly 2,000 new cases a year in the UK.
What causes testicular cancer? Is there anything I can do to reduce the risk of developing it? We are still investigating the causes of testicular cancer and do not know of any treatments that could prevent it. The most important thing is to check your testicles regularly to detect any changes in their shape or size. The most significant risk factor is undescended testis at birth with 10% of patients having a history of this condition. Testicular cancer can have a strong genetic component, with brothers, fathers or sons of testicular cancer patients having up to a 10-fold increased risk of developing the disease.
How is testicular cancer diagnosed? Testicular cancer can be diagnosed through regular self-checking of the normal size and shape of your testicles. When these have altered in some way, it is important to consult with your doctor. Please note that most lumps are benign (non-cancerous) and no operation is necessary.
How is testicular cancer treated? Testicular cancer can be treated by surgery, by radiotherapy or by chemotherapy. In some cases these treatments are combined. The most straightforward and safest way of dealing with a cancerous lump is to remove the testicle.
Can a man diagnosed with testicular cancer make a full recovery? 99% of testicular cancers can be cured if caught at an early stage. Even when the tumour spreads, the cure rate is very high. Treatment may be very intensive, but most patients cured will have no long-term side effects from treatment. A small proportion of patients will become infertile after chemotherapy treatment. Other side effects of treatment are uncommon but may include damage to the nerve endings, hearing and poor circulation. There may be a slightly increased risk of developing other cancers. The risks of these problems are lessened if the cancer is treated early.
Will the operation affect my sex drive and will I still be able to father children? Once you have recovered from the immediate effects of the operation (it can be sore for a few days afterwards) you should be able to have sex as normal. In most circumstances, one testicle is sufficient to produce sperm to father children. If additional treatment is required following surgery, your fertility can be affected and you will always be offered sperm banking before this treatment commences. Being diagnosed with cancer can be stressful and this can affect the level of performance for some men. If this is the case, please consult with your doctor.
How will it look, after the operation? Following the surgery you may not look very different to how you were before the operation especially if you have a prosthetic testicle inserted. You will have a small scar in your groin, although the scrotal area itself will be little changed.
Will I lose my masculinity? This is a common worry for men with testicular cancer. Masculinity is due to the testosterone hormone that is produced by the testicles. In the majority of men one testicle can produce enough testosterone to support your masculinity. Occasionally if the remaining testicle has been damaged, your doctor can recommend replacement testosterone therapy to maintain this aspect of your life.
How do I carry out a self-examination? We recommend this is done after a warm shower or bath when the scrotal skin relaxes. Support the scrotum in the palm of your hand and become familiar with the size and weight of each testicle. Examine each testicle by rolling it between your fingers and thumb. Gently feel for lumps, swellings, or changes in firmness. Remember each testicle has an epididymis at the top which carries sperm to the penis. Don’t panic if you feel this – it’s normal.