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Preventing Testicular Cancer

June 27, 2022
Est. Reading: 6 minutes

Testicular cancer occurs when cells in the testicles (the male reproductive glands) grow out of control. There are two types of testicular cancer: seminomas and non-seminomas. Seminomas are slower-growing tumors and tend to respond well to treatment. Non-seminomas are more aggressive tumors but usually respond well to treatment.

testicular cancer

Testicular Cancer Causes and Types

Testicular cancer is relatively rare, but it is the most common cancer in young men between the ages of 15 and 44. There is no one definitive cause of testicular cancer. However, several risk factors may increase a man's chances of developing the disease. These testicular cancer causes include:

- A family history. Men with a father or brother who has had the disease are twice as likely to develop the disease themselves.

- A history of undescended testicles. Testicles that have not descended into the scrotum (the sac that contains the testicles) are more susceptible to developing cancer because they get exposed to higher temperatures, which can damage the DNA of the cells and lead to tumor growth.

- Certain genetic conditions, such as Klinefelter syndrome and Carcinoma in situ of the testicle. Klinefelter syndrome is a condition that affects male reproductive organs, characterized by the presence of two X chromosomes and one Y chromosome. Carcinoma in situ is a precancerous condition in which abnormal cells are present in the testicles but have not spread to other tissues.

- Exposure to certain chemicals, such as vinyl chloride or herbicides. Vinyl chloride is a synthetic chemical used to produce PVC (polyvinyl chloride) plastic. Herbicides are chemicals used to kill plants.

- HIV/AIDS. Men with HIV/AIDS are more susceptible to developing various types of cancer, including testicular cancer.

- Previous treatment for testicular cancer. Men who have had testicular cancer are at an increased risk of developing the disease again.

- A history of mumps orchitis, a condition that results from inflammation of the testicles caused by the mumps virus. It can increase the risk of developing testicular cancer.

- Testicular trauma. Men who have had injuries to their testicles are at increased risk for developing testicular cancer.

- Cigarette smoking. Men who smoke cigarettes are more likely to develop testicular cancer than men who do not smoke.

If a person has any of these risk factors, it does not mean they will develop testicular cancer. However, it is essential to be aware of the potential increased risk so that they can take steps to reduce their chances of developing the disease. For example, men with a history of undescended testicles should regularly see a doctor for checkups. And men exposed to vinyl chloride or herbicides should take precautions to protect themselves from these chemicals.

There are two main types of testicular cancer: seminomas and non-seminomas.

  • Seminomas are the less common type of tumor, accounting for about 30% of all testicular cancers. They tend to grow slowly and are usually found in men over 40. Non-seminomas are the more common type of tumor, accounting for about 70% of all testicular cancers. They tend to grow more quickly and are usually found in men under 40. The most common type of seminoma is classic seminoma. This subtype makes up about 80% of all seminomas. Classic seminomas tend to grow slowly and respond well to treatment. The other types of seminoma include spermatocytic seminoma and embryonal cell carcinoma. Spermatocytic seminomas make up about 10% of all seminomas. They tend to grow more slowly than classic seminomas and are usually found in men over 50. Embryonal cell carcinomas make up about 5% of all seminomas. They tend to grow more quickly than classic seminomas and are usually found in men under 40.
  • Non-Seminoma: The most common type of non-seminoma is a yolk sac tumor. This subtype makes up about 30% of all non-seminomas. Yolk sac tumors multiply quickly and are common in young boys. The other types of non-seminoma include choriocarcinoma, teratoma, and mixed germ cell tumor. Choriocarcinomas make up about 5% of all non-seminomas. They tend to proliferate and are usually found in men under 30. Teratomas make up about 10% of all non-seminomas. They tend to grow slowly and are typically found in men over 40. Mixed germ cell tumors combine two or more types of testicular cancer. They make up about 25% of all non-seminomas and can be composed of any combination of the above subtypes.

Testicular Cancer Symptoms and Complications

The most common symptom of testicular cancer is a lump or mass in the testicles. This lump may be painless at first, but it can cause pain and discomfort as it grows. Other testicular cancer symptoms include:

- A feeling of heaviness in the scrotum

- A dull ache in the lower abdomen or groin

- A change in how the testicle feels

- Enlargement or tenderness of the breast tissue

- Pain or discomfort in the testicle or scrotum

- Swelling or fluid buildup in the scrotum

If a person experiences any of these symptoms, it is vital to see a doctor so that they can rule out other potential causes and determine if they have testicular cancer. Testicular cancer is highly treatable, especially when caught in the early stages. So, seeing a doctor as soon as possible is crucial if one thinks they may have the disease.

testicular cancer symptoms

Testicular cancer is a severe disease that can have significant complications. However, it is essential to remember that the vast majority of men who are diagnosed with the condition get cured. With early detection and treatment, the chances of a cure are even higher. Some complications include:

- Pain and discomfort: Testicular cancer can cause pain and discomfort in the testicles or scrotum.

- Infertility: Testicular cancer can damage the reproductive organs and lead to infertility.

- Lymphedema: A condition that occurs when the lymphatic system is damaged, and fluid builds up in the tissues. It can cause swelling and pain in the affected area.

- Psychological difficulties: Testicular cancer can have a significant psychological impact, particularly if it leads to issues such as infertility or sexual dysfunction.

Testicular Cancer Treatment 

The treatment depends on the stage of the disease. The stage is determined by how far cancer has spread. It typically gets divided into four stages:

- Stage I: The cancer is confined to the testicle.

- Stage II: Cancer has spread to the lymph nodes in the abdomen.

- Stage III: Cancer has spread to other body parts, such as the lungs or brain.

- Stage IV: Cancer has come back after treatment or cannot get removed with surgery.

The most common treatment for testicular cancer is surgery.

  • Surgery: A radical inguinal orchiectomy is the most common surgery for testicular cancer. This surgery involves removing the entire testicle and surrounding lymph nodes. Sometimes, the surgeon may also need to remove part of the spermatic cord. This surgery is typically performed under general anesthesia and takes about two hours. After surgery, the tissue from the removed testicle is sent to a lab to examine under a microscope. This examination helps the doctor determine if any cancer cells are left behind and what type of treatment an individual needs. If the cancer has spread to other parts of the body, they may need additional treatment, such as:
  • Chemotherapy: This type of cancer treatment uses drugs to kill cancer cells. Chemotherapy can be given intravenously (through a vein) or orally (in pill form).
  • Radiation therapy: This cancer treatment uses high-energy beams, such as X-rays, to kill cancer cells. Radiation therapy can be given externally (from a machine outside the body) or internally (from a radioactive source placed inside the body).

Complications of testicular cancer treatment include:

- Surgery Complications. Complications from surgery to remove the testicle can consist of pain, infection, and damage to the surrounding nerves and blood vessels.

- Radiation Complications. Complications from radiation therapy can include fatigue, skin irritation, and gastrointestinal problems.

- Chemotherapy Complications. Complications from chemotherapy can include nausea, vomiting, hair loss, and infertility.

Preventing Testicular Cancer

Although there is no sure way to prevent testicular cancer, there are some things a person can do to reduce their risk.

- Self-Examination. A person needs to perform a self-examination of their testicles monthly. This examination can help them identify any changes in the size or shape of their testicles. If they notice any changes, they must see a doctor as soon as possible.

- Healthy lifestyle choices. Making healthy lifestyle choices, such as maintaining a healthy weight and eating a healthy diet, can help reduce the risk of testicular cancer.

- Avoiding harmful substances. Avoiding exposure to toxic substances, such as cigarettes and other tobacco products, can help to reduce the risk of testicular cancer.

- Early detection. Early detection is key to successful treatment. If a person has any symptoms, it is vital to see a doctor as soon as possible.

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