Testicular cancer

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Testicular cancer

Most people affected with Testicular Cancer are aged between 20-40 years. However, Testicular Cancer can occur at younger or older ages.

How does testicular cancer develop?

Testicular cancer usually develops in the so-called germ cells: cells which produce sperm. This is why a testicular tumour is sometimes known as a germ cell tumour. There are two types of germ cell tumours:

– Seminomas: cancerous swelling that occurs in the inner part of the spine.
– Non-Seminomas: All other types of tumours that may develop in reproductive cells (for example, fallopian tumours, choriocarcinomas or embryonic carcinomas).

Seminomas occur in about half of testicular cancer cases. Very occasionally, there is a combination of seminomas and non-seminomas.

What causes testicular cancer?

Doctors still do not know exactly what causes testicular cancer. Scientists believe that genetic and environmental factors play a role. It is remarkable that testicular cancer occurs more frequently in white men.

What are the risk factors for testicular cancer?

Testicular cancer is rare. However, it is one of the most common cancers among young men. This disease mainly affects men who have a higher risk of the disease. Doctors point out the following risk factors:

– Men with one or more undescended testicles that were surgically treated during or after puberty. The risk of testicular cancer, in these instances, is three times higher than in those who underwent the surgery at a young age.

– An undescended testicle in adulthood. This increases the likelihood of developing testicular cancer by six times.

– If testicular cancer runs in the family. Anyone with a father or brother who has had testicular cancer has a five to ten times greater chance of getting it too.

– Infertility. Men who are infertile are more prone to developing testicular cancer.

– Testicular atrophy. This condition increases the risk of a malignant tumour in the testicle.

– A history of testicular cancer. A man who has already has had testicular cancer has a slightly increased risk (2 to 3 percent) of the disease recurring.

What are the symptoms of testicular cancer?

A tumour in one of the testes can be recognised by one or more of the following symptoms:

– A hardening or lump on the testicle, possibly painful to the touch;

– The testicle is swollen;

– A heavy, dull feeling in the abdomen in the scrotum or behind the scrotum.

These symptoms could indicate testicular cancer. It would be wise to further investigate these symptoms. Sometimes the cancer is discovered on the basis of other symptoms, such as back or abdominal pain caused by swollen lymph nodes. This usually indicates that cancer has spread.

Is testicular cancer preventable?

Testicular cancer is not preventable – yet. The disease probably results from a combination of genetic and environmental factors known as “substances in our environment that have an inhibitory effect on the development of germ cells in the testes,” said Professor Leendert Looijenga (Medical Cell biologist at Erasmus MC). Fortunately, there is good news: testicular cancer is treatable and the cure rate is very high, provided it is detected in time. It is, therefore, of the utmost importance to regularly examine the testes for any abnormalities.

How should you perform a testicular self-examination?

Check the testicles for abnormalities each month so that testicular cancer can be quickly detected. That’s important, because the sooner the disease is treated, the greater the chance of cure. A self-examination is best carried out during or after a hot shower, as the muscles around the testicles are then relaxed. Roll the testicle between your thumb and forefinger and check for lumps, swelling or any other irregularities. The ‘Talking Testicles’ website has a great video and many other interactive features to help you learn how to perform a self-exam. The Testicular Cancer Society website has a handy ‘Ball Checker’ app to remind you to check your balls each month.

Testicular cancer treatments

If testicular cancer is suspected, a urologist will carry out further research by performing an ultrasound and taking blood. If everything indicates that there is indeed testicular cancer, the affected testicle will be removed as quickly as possible. The tissue is then examined to determine which type of testicular cancer is involved. If the cancer has spread, further treatment is necessary, for example, with chemotherapy or radiotherapy. Sometimes a doctor might decide to preventively perform these additional treatments anyway to prevent the cancer spreading.


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