The exact cause of testicular cancer is unknown. Factors that may increase a man's risk of developing testicular cancer are:
- Abnormal testicle development
- Exposure to certain chemicals
- Family history of testicular cancer
- HIV infection
- History of testicular cancer
- History of an undescended testicle (one or both testicles fail to move into the scrotum before birth)
- Klinefelter syndrome
There are two main types of testicular cancer. Both of these cancers grow from germ cells, the cells that make sperm:
Seminomas. This is a slow-growing form of testicular cancer found in men in their 30s and 40s. The cancer is in the testes, but it can spread to the lymph nodes. Seminomas are very sensitive to radiation therapy.
Nonseminomas. This more common type of testicular cancer tends to grow more quickly than seminomas.
Nonseminoma tumors are often made up of more than one type of cell, and are identified according to these different cell types:
- Choriocarcinoma (rare)
- Embryonal carcinoma
- Yolk sac tumor
A stromal tumor is a rare type of testicular tumor. They are usually not cancerous. The two main types of stromal tumors are Leydig cell tumors and Sertoli cell tumors. Stromal tumors usually occur during childhood.
Testicular Cancer Symptoms
Often there are no symptoms. The cancer may look like a painless mass in the testes. If symptoms are present, they may include:
- Discomfort or pain in the testicle, or a feeling of heaviness in the scrotum
- Pain in the back or lower abdomen
- Enlarged testicle or a change in the way it feels
- Excess amount of breast tissue (gynecomastia), however this can occur normally in adolescent boys who do not have testicular cancer
- Lump or swelling in either testicle
Symptoms in other parts of the body, such as the lungs, abdomen, pelvis, back, or brain, may also occur if the cancer has spread outside the testicles.
Testicular Cancer Diagnosis
A physical examination typically reveals a firm lump (mass) in one of the testicles. When the health care provider holds a flashlight up to the scrotum, the light does not pass through the lump. This exam is called transillumination.
Other tests include:
- Abdominal and pelvic CT scan
- Blood tests for tumor markers
- Chest x-ray
- Ultrasound of the scrotum
Testicular Cancer Treatment Options
Once cancer is found, the first step is to determine the type of cancer cell by examining it under a microscope. Next, your doctor will determine if the cancer has spread to other parts of the body and if so, how far. This is called “staging.”
After this, treatments may include:
Surgery. In the case of testicular cancer, surgery usually involves an excisional biopsy, which is removal of a portion of the testis in order to examine the cells under a microscope. This is an important step, because until your doctors known the type of cancer cells, they cannot create the right treatment plan for you. In addition, if cancer had spread to other parts of the body, our specially trained urological oncologist can offer a minimally invasive surgical approach, in addition to the traditional, open approach to facilitate rapid recovery without compromising removal of the cancer.
Chemotherapy. This medical treatment involves medications to kill cancer cells. Testicular cancer is treated when the tumor is a non-seminoma.
Radiation Therapy. Radiation therapy, the process of using high beams of radioactive energy aimed at tumors in order to kill them and halt their growth, is used when testicular cancer appears as a seminoma.
Why Multidisciplinary Teams Matter, No Matter What Stage
We create teams of the different specialists who focus on urologic cancers. What this means is that at every stage of your cancer journey, you will meet with doctors who only focus on the type of cancer you have. Together, with other specialized experts, they will decide on the best treatment for you, personalizing your treatment directly to your condition and lifestyle.