Testis cancer is more common than you think. It mainly affects young men between 15 and 40 years of age. This disease is due to the malignant growth of cells in the tissues of a testis. However, cancerous cells affecting both testes are a rare occurrence. On a good note, this disease is curable if detected early.
Types of testis cancer
Testis cancer can be of two types, seminoma and non-seminoma. Amongst both, seminoma has a better prognosis than non-seminoma tumors. However, that doesn’t mean that non-seminoma carries a poor outcome. The truth is that testicular cancer has better results than many other cancers affecting the body.
Causes of testicular cancer
Several reasons are linked to the development of testicular malignancy.
- Undescended testes – Testes develop inside the tummy of a baby before his birth. The testes descend and pop into the scrotum from inside the belly during or soon after birth. However, in some children, this doesn’t happen naturally due to some causes. This condition is called undescended testes or cryptorchidism. Men born with such a condition are at more risk of developing testicular cancer in the later stages of their lives.
- Genetic disorders – Men with genetic disorders like Down syndrome or Klinefelter’s syndrome are at an increased risk of getting testicular cancer.
- HIV infection – Men infected with HIV are at a slightly higher risk of getting this cancer.
- Family history – Rarely, some testicular cancers may run in the family and are passed down through generations.
Symptoms of testicular cancer
If you notice any of these symptoms, please don’t ignore them; consult your doctor without any delay.
- A feeling of heaviness inside the scrotum
- Swelling of scrotum
- An increase in the size of one testicle
- Lump in either testicle.
- Pain or discomfort in testicle or scrotum
- Dull pain or a tugging pain in one side of the lower abdomen or groin
How is testicular cancer diagnosed?
An oncologist will conduct various tests to diagnose this type of cancer.
- A thorough physical examination.
- Ultrasound of scrotum
- Serum tumor markers (blood tests)
- CT / MRI scans
What about FNAC? Should a needle test be done through the scrotum?
A needle test, also called FNAC, should NOT be performed through the scrotum. This increases the chances of spread.
How is testicular cancer treated?
The kind of treatment one receives will depend upon the stage and type of testicular cancer. There are three main kinds of treatment for this cancer, and it includes:
Surgical treatment – If your doctor strongly suspects testicular cancer, the first step is to remove the affected testicle. This is done by making a small opening in the lower part of your belly. Through this opening, the surgeon will pull the testicle out from the scrotal sac. The most important thing to note here is that the surgeon will not remove the testicle by opening up the scrotum but through a small opening in your lower abdomen. This is to lower the risk of cancer spread. In medical science, this procedure is called ‘high inguinal orchidectomy.’
After this procedure, the testicle will be sent for further examination to the pathology department. The subsequent treatments depend upon the final biopsy report from the pathology department.
Chemotherapy – Depending upon the type, stage of cancer, and the levels of tumor markers in the blood, the oncologist then decides regarding the requirement of chemotherapy. Even if chemotherapy is required, the number of chemotherapy cycles required in testicular cancer is low, compared to early-stage cancers affecting other body parts.
Radiation therapy – Radiation is given either to treat or to prevent cancer recurrence in lymph node regions inside the abdomen.
Testicular cancer is a common disease that affects thousands of men in India. If you notice anything unusual in your testicle, you should consult a doctor instead of shying away. The chances of recovery are the highest when it is detected early.
The author, Dr. David K Simson is a trained radiation oncologist specializing in advanced radiation techniques such as intensity-modulated radiotherapy (IMRT), image-guided radiotherapy (IGRT), volumetric modulated arc therapy (VMAT) / Rapid Arc, stereotactic body radiotherapy (SBRT), stereotactic radiotherapy (SRT), stereotactic radiosurgery (SRS). He is also experienced in interstitial, intracavitary, and intraluminal brachytherapy.