This form of cancer is rare but it is one of the most common cancers among men aged 15-35. Boys who mature earlier have a higher risk of developing this form of cancer. (This may be due to high hormone levels early in development.) Males with a family history of testicular cancer have a higher risk of developing this cancer than those with no such history. Overweight males are also more likely to develop testicular cancer. When detected early, testicular cancer is one of the most easily cured. Testicular Cancer affects about 6,000 men a year. Usually only one testicle is involved.

Your Testicular Self-Exam
Note: Soap on fingers increases your sensitivity of touch.

The Testicles

The total exam takes only three minutes. Start by holding your scrotum in the palms of your hands. Then feel one testicle. Apply a small amount of pressure. Slowly roll it between your fingers. Try to find hard, painless lumps.

The Epididymis

Now, examine your epididymis. This comma-shaped cord is found behind your testicles. It's job is to store and transport sperm. Tender when touched, it is the location of most non-cancerous problems.

The Vas

Continue by examining the vas, the sperm-carrying tube that runs up from your epididymis. Normally, the vas feels like a firm, movable smooth tube. Now, repeat the exam on the other side.

Warning Signs

The most common warning sign is the appearance of a small, hard, painless lump (about the size of a pea) on the front or side of the testicle. There is usually no other early sign of danger, except for the lump's firmness and growth.
  • Enlargement of the testicle
  • Change in how the testicle feels to the touch
  • Sudden accumulation of fluid or blood in the scrotum
  • Dull ache in the groin
  • Swelling, or tenderness in other parts of the body, such as the groin, breast, or neck
  • Feeling of heaviness in the testicle
  • Pain in the testicle
  • Enlargement of the male breasts and nipples
Cancer Types

There are 2 main types of testicular cancers -- seminomas and nonseminomas. Both begin in the sperm-forming cells of the testicles, but they differ in the rate and location of spread, and in their response to treatment.

Seminomas- About half of all the cancers of the testicle are seminomas, or tumors. They are generally found at an early stage, before they have spread. Males with an early seminoma have close to a 100% cure rate if treated with surgery and radiation.
Nonseminomas- These are difficult to cure because they are not as responsive to radiation treatments as are seminomas. There are several types of nonseminomas, but the recommended treatment is almost always the same: Surgical removal of the cancerous testicle. Such a procedure is necessary because nonseminomas are very dangerous.

Treatments of Cancer of the Testicle

The treatment team should involve the following board-certified physicians:

  • Urologist - A specialist in diseases of the genitals and urinary system
  • Therapeutic Radiologist- A specialist in the treatment of tumors with radiation
  • A specialist in the treatment of cancer with chemotherapy
Steps to Treatment

Standard treatment for a suspicious lump in the testicle is usually surgical removal of the affected testicle. This surgery also allows for precise diagnosis of the tumor, and when done in an early stage, prevents the spread of cancer to the rest of the body.

The next step in cancer treatment begins after the laboratory has determined the type of cancer that affected the removed testicle. Seminomas are usually treated with radiation therapy. After surgery, nonseminomas are usually treated with chemotherapy, or chemotherapy with radiation. Radiation therapy does not affect fertility or potency. However, chemotherapy does affect fertility.

Facts to Know

In earlier years, the outlook for persons with advanced nonseminoma cancers was very poor. Now, with new cancer treatment techniques, survival rates are improving. Stronger types of chemotherapy are more effective against cancer of the testicle, but the key is still early detection and diagnosis. The earlier cancer is detected, the greater the odds for successful treatment. This is why monthly testicular self-examinations are so important.

Removal of one testicle does not affect sexual function. The remaining testicle provides an adequate supply of hormones and sperm. To give a normal appearance and feel to the scrotum, an artificial testicle can be implanted.

How is cancer of the testicle diagnosed?

Physical Examination:
The first step in diagnosing any problem with the scrotum or testicles is a thorough physical examination by a physician. For further evaluation, referral to a urologist or other specialist may be necessary.

This technique uses sound waves directed towards the testicles. Echo waves from the sound probe are analyzed for patterns that suggest abnormal tissue growth.
Computerized Axial Tomography (CAT Scan)
This is a special computerized X-ray study of the body. It helps the physician determine the existence and location of tumors and other cancerous masses in the body.

In this method, a very intense beam of light is passed through the thin skin of the scrotal sac. Abnormalities like solid masses within the scrotum are detectable because they will not allow light to pass through.

This procedure involves X-rays of the lymph system following injection with a special dye. Using this technique, a physician can detect blockages in the lymph system that may suggest cancer.

With aspiration, a syringe and needle are used to withdraw fluid from any cyst or tumor. The removed sample of liquid is then examined in the laboratory.
Intravenous Pyelography (IVP)
IVP involves special dyes and X-ray studies of the kidneys, bladder, and other structures of the urinary system. It allows the physician to check for blockages and other abnormalities of the urinary tract.

Biopsy is a procedure in which a very small piece of suspicious tissue- like a tumor or cyst - is removed and examined in the laboratory.
Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)
Also known as Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR), this procedure uses magnetization and radio frequencies to produce detailed images of internal body structures. The MRI is used for the same purposes as a CAT scan.
  Orchiectomy (Orchectomy; Orchidectomy)
This procedure is the surgical removal of a testicle. The removed organ is examined in the laboratory to confirm the presence of cancer. An artificial testicle may be used to replace the one that was removed.

Notice: Information on this web site is provided for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice. You should not use the information on this web site for diagnosing or treating a medical or health condition. If you have or suspect you have a medical problem, promptly contact your professional healthcare provider.