Testicular cancer is a type of cancer that starts in the testicles, part of the male reproductive system. Cancer cells can develop from different cells of the testicles and most often develop in germ cells. Germ cells are the cells that will eventually become sperm.
Germ cell testicular cancer can be further divided into nonseminoma or seminoma types.
Symptoms of testicular cancer can vary for each person, but some of the common symptoms of testicular cancer include the following:
- A mass or lump in one testicle
- Pain in the testicle
- A feeling of heaviness in the testicles
- Aching in the testicles
- Pain or aching in the abdomen or pelvis
Symptoms of testicular cancer that has spread to other areas of the body can include:
- Chest pain
- Shortness of breath
- Back pain
- Swelling to the legs
The ultimate diagnosis of testicular cancer will be made once a biopsy is obtained. Often, when someone presents with testicular pain or swelling, an ultrasound of the testicles can be done to look for any suspicious areas in the testicle. If testicular cancer is suspected, they may be referred for surgery to have the affected testicle removed.
Once the surgery is done, the mass will be tested for cancer.
When a diagnosis of testicular cancer is suspected or confirmed, imaging studies such as CT scans, MRI, or PET scans may be ordered to see if the cancer has spread to other body areas, including solid organs.
Lab tests, such as beta-human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG) alpha-fetoprotein (AFP), can serve as tumor markers. These tests can be elevated if testicular cancer is present.
The exact treatment for testicular cancer will be determined once the diagnosis is made and the cancer stage is known. Surgery is commonly done as part of the diagnostic process. Some lymph nodes may also be removed during surgery to see if any cancer cells are present.
Some people will need to be treated with chemotherapy. Chemotherapy is a medication that is given to kill cancer cells. Radiation therapy, where high beams of energy are directed at cancer cells, may also be given.
If you’ve been diagnosed with testicular cancer, be sure to talk to your cancer team about the specifics of your cancer. They can help you understand your diagnosis and how best to treat it.