Like any other cancer, testicular cancer leads to abnormal and uncontrolled growth of cells of one or both testicles which are the reproductive glands in males situated in the scrotum. It usually starts from the testicles and can spread over other organs of the body like abdomen lymph nodes, liver, lungs etc. generally, testicular cancer affects only one testicle but in less than 5% cases, it is found in both. Usually, men of 15 to 35 years of age are more prone to such a cancer though it can happen at any age. Seminomas and nonseminomas are its two types which account for 40% and 70 % of testicular cancer cases in men respectively.
Fortunately, this cancer is one of the most treatable of any cancer known and one can completely recover from it. There are several treatments and medications available which can cure testicular cancer easily, provided it has not reached to an alarming stage.
Causes of Testicular Cancer
What causes testicular cancer or what exactly triggers this condition is still an unsolved mystery. There are certain factors and problem that can increase the chances of getting affected by it which are as follows:
- Due to undescended testicle: Before the birth of a male child still he is 3 months old, there are changes that his testicle has still not dropped into the scrotum from his belly due to which chances of getting testicular cancer increases as he grows.
- Due to abnormal growth of one or both testicles.
- If a person is suffering from Klinefelter’s Syndrome (two or even more X chromosomes are present in a male’s sperm who is suffering from this syndrome. In normal conditions, it is one X and one Y chromosome), then he is prone to testicular cancer.
- If a person holds a family history regarding this disease, then his chance of having this cancer increases.
- Although it rarely happens, but even a person with HIV is on the edge of suffering from this cancer.
- Reaction from certain drugs or chemicals can also lead to testicular cancer.
Symptoms and Signs of Testicular Cancer
It is necessary to self check your testicles regularly. Some of the common symptoms of testicular cancer include the following:
- Painless swelling and lump formation in one of the testicle.
- Increase in size of the affected testicle.
- Fluid accumulation in scrotum.
- Dull pain in the abdomen and heavy feeling in the scrotum.
- Pain in the testicle, but very uncommon.
These symptoms become worse over the advanced stages and spread over other organs such as lump nodes in abdomen, neck, lungs etc. and can cause neurological symptoms as well, but very rare.
For the diagnosis of testicular cancer, certain procedures are adopted such as:
- CT scan of pelvic region and abdomen
- Chest X-ray
- Scrotum ultrasound
- Blood test and dry test for factors triggering testicle cancer such as lactic dehydrogenase, human chorionic ganodotrophin and alpha fetoprotein.
After testicular cancer is diagnosed, next step is to determine its stage, whether it is present only in testicles (stage 1), it has spread to lymph nodes in abdomen (stage 2) or it has spread to other organs such as lungs, liver etc. (stage 3, highest and most dangerous)
Treatment and Prevention
As already mentioned that testicular cancer is the most curable of all cancers known, the success rate of its treatment is usually high. Type of cancer you have and length of area it has affected will decide which treatment is suitable for you. Your doctor can suggest you any of the following depending upon your case of cancer:
- Surgery: Surgery, for removing the tumor or affected testicles, is the main treatment for testicular cancer. It is also the only treatment you will need if your cancer is diagnosed at the early stage. At advanced stage, lymph nodes in the abdomen area may also be removed and your doctor and oncologist will give you all tips and care steps you will need for recovery. Just to give a normal appearance to your scrotum, an artificial testicle is also inserted into it.
- Chemotherapy: If there is a plethora of cancer cells in your abdominal lymph nodes or if it has spread further, chemotherapy is the treatment you will need. Cancer cells are destroyed completely with this treatment. Several doses of certain medication are given over regular periods which depend on the type of your cancer and course of medication which your body can bear. Sometimes chemotherapy is given after surgery as adjuvant chemotherapy to prevent regeneration of cancer in future. Also, in order to shrink the size of the tumor before surgery, this treatment if provided which is called neo-adjuvant chemotherapy.
- Radiotherapy: In this radiation is used to destroy the cancer cells in testicles or in lymph nodes in your abdomen. It can also be used after surgery and can treat any type and intensity of cancer.
Once you are diagnosed with testicular cancer and have gone through proper treatment, your doctor will have a word with you regarding the after effects of its treatment which can be:
- Effect on your sex life with reduced sex drive and fatigue. This happens due to side effects of the treatment and improves once you have recovered completely.
- Effect on your fertility. For that your sperms are usually stored before the treatment starts.
- Problems regarding erection retention or gain as a side effect of radiotherapy.
In order to dwindle down the risks of getting testicular cancer, one can make necessary changes in one’s lifestyle like giving up smoking and drinking, having a healthy diet and good exercise etc. Also it is important to be familiar with the symptoms of this condition and check your testicles on regular bases. If any unusual thing is noticed, it is best to consult your doctor because the sooner your cancer is diagnosed easier it is to treat it