What is Testicular Cancer?
Testicular cancer is a group of cancers that evolve or arise from the testicle itself, which produce sperm and male sex hormone (testosterone). Testicular cancer is the most common cancer in males aged 18 to 35. There are several types of testicular cancers. Seminomas and Non-seminomas are the two types of germ cell tumors found in men.
What are the Risk Factors for Testicular Cancer?
Risk factors are conditions that predispose you to any disease. Scientists have identified few risk factors for testicular cancer, and they include;
- Undescended testicle (Cryptorchidism): This is one of the biggest risk factors for testicular cancer. It is a condition in which the testis fails to migrate from the abdomen to its normal position, the scrotum before birth. Having an undescended testicle can increase your risk for testicular cancer by 6 to 10 percent.
- Ethnicity: White men are about four times as likely to develop testicular cancer as black and Asian-American men.
- Age: The risk of testicular cancer is higher in younger men than in older men. Almost half of the cases of testicular cancer cases are seen in men aged 20-34.
- Family history: The risk is higher if you have a father or brother with testicular cancer.
What are the Early Warning Signs of Testicular Cancer?
One of the key signs of testicular cancer is any kind of lump, hardness, mass, or irregularity in either testicle. If can be as small as pea if found early but can grow much larger if detected in its advanced stage. Keep in mind, it is normal for one testicle to be larger than the other. Other symptoms include
- Dull aches and pains in the lower back, groin, or abdomen. This is usually a sign that cancer has already spread to the lymph nodes in the abdomen.
- Loss of sexual desire
- Headaches or confusion, if cancer has spread to the brain.
- Chest pain, shortness of breath or coughing of blood
- Enlargement or tenderness of the breast or discharge from the nipple. This occurs when certain types of testicular cancer secrete high levels of HCG hormone, which stimulates breast development in men.
STD’s and Testicular Cancer
There is no correlation between any sexually transmitted infections and testicular cancer. However, men with HIV or AIDS have an increased risk of testicular cancer. But most cases of testicular cancer are not linked to being HIV positive.
How is Testicular Cancer Diagnosed?
To determine whether a lump in the testis is cancer, a doctor will perform a detailed physical examination of the testicles as well as other parts of the body including your abdomen and lymph nodes. Further testing includes but is not limited to:
- An ultrasound scans
- Blood tests: Some testicular cancers produce chemicals known as tumor These are released into the blood and can be measured by simple blood tests. The three main tumor markers are lactate dehydrogenase (LDH), alpha-fetoprotein (AFP) and human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG)
What are the Treatment Options for Cancer?
Treating testicular cancer depends on factors such as type and stage of cancer, your overall health and
The most common forms of treatment include
- Surgery: This involves surgically removing the affected testes (orchidectomy). The removed testes are then sent to a pathology laboratory to confirm the stage and type of cancer.
- Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy drugs act to stop or slow the growth of cancer cells. The course of treatment is usually last 3 – 4 months. A cycle of chemotherapy is administered every three weeks, followed by a rest period to allow sufficient recovery.
Some chemotherapy drugs can damage your sperm, raising the risk of congenital defects if pregnancy occurs. Extreme precaution must be ensured to prevent pregnancy during this period
- Radiation therapy: Radiation therapy utilizes high-dose x-ray or other high-energy. It is usually reserved for after surgery to prevent the tumor from recurring and also treating the less common form of testicular cancer, seminomas.
Expectations After Treatment
There are two main concerns of patient post-treatment of testicular cancer. What is the effect on sexual performance and fertility? The outcome is dependent
If a single testicle is removed during surgery, complications such as sexual performance, sex drive or fertility (ability to have children) are usually just for a short while. The other testicle is capable of producing sperm and testosterone. However, if both testicles are affected by cancer, which in most cases, happens in about 5 out of every 100 men (5%), there would be a need for testosterone replacement therapy to maintain your sex drive, get an erection and produce sperm. Being diagnosed with cancer can cause fear, anxiety, and anger and these psychological changes can affect your libido too.
Can Testicular Cancer be Prevented?
Many of the known risk factors associated with most testicular cancer cannot be changed. For this reason, it’s not possible to prevent testicular cancer. With regards to all cancer, early detection is crucial. Regular medical check-ups and testicular self-exams can help detect cancer early when it is highly curable.
Other definite steps you can take to prevent testicular cancer include.
- Reduce exposure to chemical toxins and endocrine disrupting compounds that may cause infertility, deformation of the testes, undescended testicles and testicular. These chemical compounds are routinely used in many household items.
- Take nutritional supplements such as Boswellia, medicinal mushroom, and
What is the Chance of Testicular Cancer Returning?
Cancer in one testis is a major risk factor for the development of cancer in the other testes. Regular testicular self-examination and active surveillance by a doctor is therefore highly recommended for men who have had a single testis removed due to testicular cancer.
The chance of cancer returning in other parts of the body depends on the type and the initial spread of cancer. For recurrent testicular cancer, treatment usually includes chemotherapy and surgery.
Can you Die from Testicular Cancer?
Testicular cancer is one of the most treatable cancers, especially if caught early. If caught at an early stage, before it has spread, the survival rate is almost 100% but if caught at a late stage the rate drops to less than 75%. Thanks to early detection and advanced treatments, only approximately 1 in 5000 men will die from testicular cancer.
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McMahon, D. (2003). Early Orchidopexy Does Prevent Testicular Cancer. AAP Grand Rounds, 10(2), 13-14. doi: 10.1542/gr.10-2-13
Salmon, L. (2018). 10 things you should know about testicular cancer. Retrieved from http://home.bt.com/lifestyle/health/health-concerns/10-things-you-should-know-about-testicular-cancer-11364239706182