I often get asked the same questions so have collated the answers here and hopefully you can find the information you need.
What is testicular cancer?
A growth of malignant (abnormal) cells in a testicle.
How does it develop?
It starts in a tiny area of one testicle but, if left to grow, it may then spread to other parts of the body.
Is testicular cancer hereditary (can it run in the family)?
Men whose brother or father has had testicular cancer do have an increased risk themselves.
Are there any early warning signs that you should look out for?
The first sign is usually a lump in the testicle which feels harder than the normal part of the testicle.If the cancer has spread then it may produce a variety of other symptoms such as persistent backache, enlarged breasts, a cough or loss of weight.
Are there any other symptoms?
Apart from a lump in the testicle you should get any ache or pain or change in size there checked out. Persistent backache, loss of weight or breast tenderness can also be symptoms.
Is there anything that increases a man’s chances of getting testicular cancer?
If you were born with one or both testicles undescended (not in the scrotum) then you have an increased risk in that testicle. This is true even if you have had an operation to bring the testicle down into the scrotum. However testicles in the scrotum can be easily examined and anyone who has had this operation should be especially careful about regular self-examination.
What should you do if you are worried?
You should immediately go to see your GP who can then refer you to a hospital consultant for advice.
If you’re not happy with your GP’s advice what should you do?
You could go to see a different doctor in the same practice or you could insist that your GP refers you to a hospital consultant.
How is it diagnosed?
Often a diagnosis can be reached with certain blood tests (particularly Alpha-FP and Beta-HCG) and an Ultrasound examination (this is rather like having an Xray, but uses no radiation).Sometimes further tests like a biopsy might be done (this means taking a tiny amount of the lump to look at under a microscope).
How accurate are the results?
A combination of these modern tests is very accurate indeed.
What are the different stages?
- Stage 1 means the growth is confined to the testicle.
- Stage 2 means it is beginning to spread into the lymph glands in the abdomen.
- Stage 3 means it has spread further than the abdomen.
- Stage 4 means it has spread to the lungs
How is it treated?
This will depend on the Stage it is at (see above).At Stage 1 the testicle will be removed. If the cancer has spread to the lymph glands or to other organs then treatment will depend on the type of cancer it is (there is more than one type of testicular cancer).Treatment may involve chemotherapy or radiotherapy, or both, and possibly further surgery.
What is the difference between chemotherapy and radiotherapy ?
Chemotherapy is treatment with drugs that kill the cancer. These are usually given intravenously. Radiotherapy is treatment with beams of radiation from a machine and is rather like having an x-ray.
Do I have any choice In the treatment I get?
Usually your consultant will be able to give you very definite advice as to which treatment is best for you and your type of cancer.If a testicle is removed you will be offered the chance of the surgeon giving you a “prosthesis” which is a false testicle which looks and feels like the one you have lost.
What about “Alternative” or “Complimentary” therapies?
Patients sometimes like to consider these in addition to the above treatments.
Will the treatment affect my chances of have children?
Just one testicle will produce enough sperm on its own.However the more complicated treatments, like chemotherapy, can damage the ability of the remaining testicle to do this.
What can I do about this?
If your consultant is worried about your sperm then you will usually be offered the opportunity to have some sperm frozen before treatment starts.This can be kept safely for many years then used successfully by artificial insemination.
What are the side effects of treatment?
If you just have to have a testicle removed you will be a bit sore for a few days but then make a quick recovery.The more complicated treatments may have various side-effects. Radiotherapy can make you temporarily rather tired for example.Chemotherapy will mean you temporarily lose your hair.It also affects you in other ways such as temporarily making you less able to fight infections.
What happens in follow up?
Follow up involves regular blood tests and sometimes ultrasound examinations or other types of scans.
How long will I be going for check ups after my treatment has finished?
For many years as your consultant will want to make absolutely sure the treatments worked!
Can I be completely cured?
Testicular cancer is one of the most curable cancers with modern treatment.Even when the cancer has spread to other organs you have a chance of a complete cure.
Could the cancer recur?
There is a possibility of the cancer recurring which is why your consultant will want to keep a careful eye on you for a long time so that you can be offered further treatment if necessary. This is very much less likely if your cancer was confined to the testicle alone.