Testicular or testis cancer is a relatively rare cancer that tends to occur in younger men (under age 40). In North America, men have a chance of one in 240 of developing testis cancer during their lifetime.
What stands out about this cancer is that it typically begins with almost no symptoms. Usually men will first notice a lump or abnormality in their testicle. Men with a history of undescended testicle are at an increased risk for developing testis cancer.
Any concern for a testicular mass should be brought to the attention of a doctor and typically these cases will be referred immediately for an opinion from a urologist. The urologist will examine the testicle and may consider an evaluation with a scrotal ultrasound. They will also order blood tests looking for tumor markers.
If there is a high suspicion for testis cancer the urologist will often recommend surgical removal of the affected testicle. This is a relatively minor surgery, and the patient can usually go home the same day. Since testis cancer is considered a fast growing tumor, the urologist will often recommend going to surgery in a very expeditious manner.
After surgery, the testicle will be examined by a pathologist who will determine by microscopic evaluation and the exact type of tumor. The findings will help to guide future treatment.
Testicular cancer tends to spread in a very systematic and predictable manner – usually to the lymph nodes of the retroperitoneum. The spread of disease to this area can be determined by a CT scan. The results of the CT scan, pathology, and tumor markers will determine if any further treatment will be necessary and if so, what kind of treatment this will entail – usually either chemotherapy or radiation.
Thankfully, great developments have taken place in the diagnosis and treatment of testis cancer over the past 30 years, and it is considered and a highly treatable and even curable disease. As with any disease, it is very important that young men periodically examine themselves and bring any concerns to a trained medical professional.