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 is rare but the most common in young men between 15 and 44. There is no 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 it 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 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 that produces plastic PVC (polyvinyl chloride). 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 with 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 with 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.
The most common symptom of testicular cancer is a lump or mass in the testicles. This lump may be painless initially, but it can cause pain and discomfort as it grows. Other testicular cancer symptoms include:
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 infertility or sexual dysfunction.
The treatment depends on the stage of the disease. The stage is determined by how far the cancer has spread. It typically gets divided into four stages:
- Stage I: The cancer confines itself 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 recurred after treatment, or surgery cannot remove it.
The most common treatment for testicular cancer is surgery.
Complications of testicular cancer treatment include:
- Surgery Complications. Complications from surgery to remove the testicle can include 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.
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 immediately.
- Healthy lifestyle choices. 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 reduce the risk of testicular cancer.
- Early detection. Early detection is critical to successful treatment. If a person has symptoms, seeing a doctor as soon as possible is vital.