Testicular Cancer

Testicular cancer is cancer that develops in the testicles, which are part of a man's reproductive system.

Although rare, this is the most common cancer in young men, affecting one in 199 men overall. As with any cancer, the cause is unknown, though it is more common in white men aged between 15 – 49 years of age. Almost half of those who get it are under 35.

The number of cases of testicular cancer that are diagnosed each year in the UK has roughly doubled since the mid-1970s. The reasons for this are unclear.

Testicular cancer is one of the most beatable cancers when detected early. Nearly all men are cured.

Please note: the information below does not constitute medical advice. If you have any concerns at all, speak to your GP or consultant.

Click here to download our bitesize guide on testicular cancer (PDF).

Learn more about Testicular Cancer

Testicular Cancer symptoms

Testicular cancer symptoms can be similar to other conditions that affect the testicles, such as infections, but it is important to get them checked by a GP.

Look out for:

  • A painless lump or swelling in one of the testicles. It can be the size of a pea or it may be much larger.
  • A feeling of heaviness in the scrotum
  • A dull ache or discomfort in the testicle or scrotum

It's important to be aware of what feels normal for you. Get to know your body and see your GP if you notice any changes.

If the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes or other parts of the body, you may experience some less common symptoms such as:

  • Backache or a dull ache in the lower tummy.
  • Lumps in lymph glands in other parts of the body, such as around the collarbone or in the neck.
  • A cough or feeling breathless.
  • Tender or swollen breasts.

Testicular cancer can usually be cured, even if it has spread when it is diagnosed.

If you notice any of the above symptoms it is important to see your doctor. It is unlikely to be testicular cancer but the quicker you get checked out the quicker you can get treated.

Testicular Cancer diagnosis

Your GP will usually examine your testicles. You will then be referred to a specialist for a full physical examination. You are likely to have a special ultrasound test. This uses sound waves to build up a picture of your testes and scrotum.

If the ultrasound result isn’t clear you can have an MRI scan which takes a detailed picture of the area. You’ll also have blood tests to see if there are certain chemicals raised in your blood.

If the test suggest that the lump is highly likely to be cancer you’ll need an operation to remove the testicle (orchidectomy) as a small piece of tissue (biopsy) may increase the risk of cancer cells spreading.

Testicular Cancer treatment

Chemotherapy, radiotherapy and surgery are the three main treatments for testicular cancer. The recommended treatment for you will depend on the type of testicular cancer you have and it’s stage.

Surgery
If cancer is present the treatment option for all cases of testicular cancer, whatever the stage, is to surgically remove the affected testicle, an orchidectomy. If the other testicle is healthy it won’t affect your ability to have sex or to father children. You can have sperm stored before surgery if you have any fertility concerns.

Chemotherapy
Chemotherapy uses anti-cancer drugs to destroy cancer cells. The drugs circulate around your body in the bloodstream. They work by disrupting the growth of cancer cells. You may have chemotherapy to help prevent the cancer coming back after you've had a testicle removed.

Radiotherapy
You may have radiotherapy after the surgery instead of chemotherapy to prevent the cancer returning. It may also be used in advanced cases of testicular cancer. If testicular cancer has spread to your lymph nodes, you may require radiotherapy after a course of chemotherapy. Radiotherapy uses high-energy rays, usually x-rays, to kill the cancer cells.

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