Testicular cancer is caused by an abnormal mass in the testicles, part of the male reproductive system.
Approximately 7,500-8,000 cases of testicular cancer are diagnosed in the United States annually, claiming the lives of less than 400 lives each year. It is one of the most regularly diagnosed cancers in men, usually affecting patients between the ages of 20 and 40 years old.
If detected and treated early, it is one of the most highly treatable forms of male cancer.
One of the first signs of testicular cancer is the appearance of a lump or lesion in the testes. This lump may not be painful, but it should be examined by a medical professional as soon as possible—particularly if the patient is within the high risk age range of this type of cancer.
A scrotal ultrasound is one of the most accurate ways to diagnose testicular cancer. This test can determine specific details of the mass, such as size, location, and type of tumor (i.e., cystic vs. solid), which can help to determine the most appropriate course of treatment.
Once the mass has been detected and a diagnosis has been made, a doctor will further examine the mass by using a CT or CAT scan, which provides a more detailed picture of the mass. A CT scan can also detect any metastases, or whether the mass has spread.
A serum tumor marker test is another exam often used to make a definitive cancer diagnosis. A sample of blood is drawn to determine the amount of certain substances released by the body’s organs, tissues, or tumor cells into the bloodstream. If there is a high level of certain substances, there is a high probability that cancer will develop.
In extreme cases, a doctor may order a radical inguinal orchiectomy and biopsy, in which one of the testicles is removed by making an incision in the groin. A tissue sample from the testicle is then drawn and examined under a microscope to detect any abnormalities. It is important to note that this is a highly sensitive procedure and should be performed by a doctor experienced with this type of surgery.
Testicular cancer has a high probability of metastasizing. Doctors will typically remove the affected testicle surgically to help prevent (or lower the odds of) spreading the disease. Following surgery, patients will usually undergo a round of chemotherapy, radiation, or some combination of the two to destroy any remaining cancer cells. Thanks to advances in cancer treatment, the prognosis for patients with testicular cancer has greatly improved. Today, it is estimated that less than 1,000 patients die from the disease.