Testicular cancer is a fairly rare, but potentially deadly form of cancer that typically occurs in young, Caucasian males. It most commonly develops as a painless growth or enlargement of the testicle. Progression and spread of testicular cancer can occur rapidly, compared to many other forms of cancer, so rapid diagnosis and treatment are critical.
While a simple physical examination can usually lead to a diagnosis of testicular cancer, other easy-to-perform tests are commonly employed to confirm the condition. An ultrasound, for example, will demonstrate a solid mass growing in the testicle or even replacing the testicle altogether. Many types of testicular cancer release specific substances in the blood stream known as tumor markers. These tumor markers can be measured with a simple blood test and may reveal the specific type of testicular cancer a patient has. Tumor markers can be measured again after treatment to confirm the cancer has been cured. CT scans may also be obtained to see if the cancer has spread to other parts of the body. Biopsy of suspected testicular cancer is strongly discouraged since it can result in contamination of surrounding tissue with cancer cells.
Initial treatment of testicular cancer requires surgical removal of the testicle. This can be accomplished as a day surgery procedure after which the patient can be expected to be on restricted activity for 2 weeks. A pathology report following the surgery confirms the exact type of testicular cancer involved.
There are two main types of testicular cancer. The first type, seminoma, usually requires follow up treatment with radiation therapy to the pelvis and results in a cure rate of greater than 95 percent. The other various types of testicular cancer (embryonal cell carcinoma, yolk sac tumors, teratoma, choriocarcinoma, etc.) are categorized together as non-seminomatous testicular cancer. Non-seminomatous testicular cancer requires more extensive follow up treatment which may include chemotherapy or surgery to remove lymph nodes behind the abdomen that drain the testicle. However, the cure rates for these types of cancer are high, as well, exceeding 90 percent.
With proper planning, most testicular cancer patients can continue to father children after they are treated and cured.
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