Testicular cancer is a cancerous growth occurring in the male gonads, or testes. The testes are located outside the body cavity, in the scrotum. Althoughtesticular cancer is a rare type of cancer, it often grows very quickly. It is the most common type of cancer to occur in young males, with most cases occurring in men under the age of 30 years. Recent advances in treatment have made testicular cancer very manageable and curable. Testicular cancer is more prevalent in males whose testes have not descended into the scrotum.
Testicular cancer usually shows no early symptoms. It is suspected when a mass is felt in the testes, although a testicular mass does not necessarily meancancer. It is important for men to perform periodic examinations of their testes in order to detect any mass at an early stage. In advanced cases, or metastatic testicular cancer, symptoms include lower back pain and discomfort, difficulty in urinating, a cough, and breathing difficulties. A feeling of heaviness in the testes is also common and there is sometimes pain.
No cause for testicular cancer has been identified. Exposure of the fetus tocertain chemicals or an individual's exposure to environmental estrogens maycause changes in cells that could lead to testicular cancer. As of yet, however, there is no conclusive evidence to name a cause. Higher rates of testicular cancer occur in men with HIV infection, suggesting that the two may also be related. Studies examining the relationship of testicular trauma, such as may occur with bike riding, and the occurrence of testicular cancer found thattrauma does not contribute to testicular cancer.
Once a mass is identified in the testes, the abdomen and other areas of the body are felt (palpated) to check for additional masses. A computed tomography scan (CT scan) of the abdomen and pelvis, as well as chest x rays, are performed to determine if the cancer has spread to other areas of the body.Sometimes the lymphatic vessels are also examined by x ray (lymphangiogram)and some blood tests that are also helpful. These tests will allow the oncologist to determine the type, extent, and severity of the cancer. Blood tests can also be used to monitor the progress of treatment and check for recurrences of testicular cancer. A tissue sample or biopsy will also be taken to confirm the diagnosis of cancer.
Treatment for testicular cancer depends upon the type and extent of the cancer. However, the first line of treatment is usually surgery to remove the mass. If the cancer has spread to other parts of the body, surgery is followed bychemotherapy. Radiation therapy may also be used to treat testicular cancer.Alternative medicine may be helpful to support the person undergoing conventional treatment for testicular cancer. Dietary modifications emphasizing whole foods and healthy fats, nutritional supplementation, acupuncture, Chinese and western botanical medicine, and homeopathic medicine can strengthen the person and assist with recovery from surgery, chemotherapy, or radiation.
The cure rate for testicular cancer that hasn't spread (non-metastatic) is 95%. This high cure rate for testicular cancer that is caught early makes self-examination extremely important. Patients cured of testicular cancer, however, need to be seen frequently because they are at a greater risk for developing additional cancers later in life.
Since the causes of testicular cancer are unknown, it is difficult to give specific measures to prevent it. One theory is that testicular cancer is related to exposure to environmental estrogens, such as insecticides and byproductsof the plastics industry. It is possible that avoidance of these products may decrease the risk of this type of cancer. Many types of cancers are associated with smoking. Stopping or cutting back on smoking decreases the risk of many cancers, and may also decrease the risk of testicular cancer. Other suspected causes for testicular cancer occur prenatally; one of these is smoking during pregnancy. Long term studies are underway to investigate this possibility.