Testicular cancer affects male reproductive organs called testicles. The normal function of these structures is essential for reproduction because they produce male sex hormones and sperm. Therefore, it is crucial to diagnose and treat testicular cancer as early as possible to prevent complications and side effects.
Testicular cancer diagnosis
Sometimes it happens that men discover lumps corresponding to testicular cancer by themselves. For example, it may occur accidentally or during the person’s self-examination of testicles. Alternatively, the doctor can found the symptoms of testicular cancer while performing a physical exam. Then, to further explore the lump and check if it is cancerous growth, the healthcare provider may suggest doing the following tests:
- Blood tests help measure the levels of tumor markers present in the blood. Tumor markers are compounds usually present there. Despite this, the increased levels of these substances may suggest an abnormal condition of the body. Possible disorders include testicular cancer. It is worth mentioning that an elevated cancer marker level doesn’t mean that the person has testicular cancer. Although, it may help the doctor to determine the diagnosis.
- An ultrasound test allows the physician to make an image of the patient’s testicles and scrotum. This method helps identify the nature of lumps and their location. For example, an ultrasound test can tell whether the swelling is fluid-filled or solid, inside or outside of testicles.
- Surgical removal of the testicle is another method of lump analysis. The doctor recommends performing this procedure when he knows that the swelling in the patient may be cancerous. Once the testicle is removed, it is then examined to see if the lump is tumorous. When the last is true, this analysis helps identify the type of cancer.
Types of testicular cancer
It is essential to identify the type of cancer because it will determine the assigned treatment. In addition, different forms of testicular cancer have different prognoses. Generally, there are two types of cancer affecting testes: seminoma and nonseminoma.
- Seminoma is a less aggressive form of testicular cancer. It may occur in all age groups. Nevertheless, if the older man has testicular cancer, he is more likely to have seminoma.
- Nonseminoma is a more aggressive type of testicular cancer. It grows and spreads fast. In addition, it affects younger men. It is worth mentioning that there are several forms of nonseminoma tumors.
Determining the stage of testicular cancer
Knowing the stage of testicular cancer is another necessary aspect needed for the assignment of treatment. Therefore, the doctor may suggest a computerized tomography scan and blood tests once the diagnosis is established. These tests assist in the determination of the stage of cancer. Moreover, they help identify if the growth has spread beyond the testicle.
There are four stages of testicular cancer. Roman numerals name them: from 0 to III. The lowest stages describe cancer that concentrates within the testicle and in the surrounding area. Stage III indicates the growth that extended to other body parts. For example, it can spread to the lungs.
Testicular cancer treatment
The choice of testicular cancer treatment depends on the stage and type of growth, patient’s health and preference. Methods of treatment include surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy.
There are two types of surgical treatment of testicular cancer available:
- Radical inguinal orchiectomy includes the removal of a testicle. This surgical procedure is a primary treatment method for almost all types and stages of testicular cancer. Furthermore, in some cases, it may be the only intervention needed to cure the growth. Testicular cancer that is in its early stages falls into this category. In addition, there is an option of insertion of a prosthetic testicle if the patient wants to do so.
- Retroperitoneal lymph node dissection involves the removal of lymphatic nodes located near the testicle. The doctor performs this procedure through the cut in the patient’s abdomen. The side effect of this testicular cancer treatment method is that sometimes it is impossible to avoid the damage to nerves surrounding lymph nodes. It, in turn, can cause problems with ejaculation. Despite this, the nerves damage won’t interfere with the normal erection.
When surgery is the only method used to treat testicular cancer, the doctor should suggest follow-up appointments. They are essential to ensure that the signs of cancer didn’t reappear.
Chemotherapy is the use of drugs to kill cancerous cells. The advantage of this method is that applied chemicals travel through the blood and can affect abnormal cells beyond the testicle. It is crucial when such cells have migrated from the original tumor location. Despite its benefits, chemotherapy treatment of testicular cancer has side effects. The last depends on the specific drug being used. They may include nausea, fatigue, hair loss, elevated risk of infection and infertility in some men. Therefore, it is essential to discuss treatment side effects and methods to reduce their impact with the doctor.
Radiation therapy is the use of energy beams with high power to kill cancer cells. An example of such beams may be X-rays. This treatment method is appropriate and sometimes used for patients with seminoma type of cancer. In addition, the doctor may perform radiation therapy after surgical removal of the testicle.
This treatment option also has side effects. There are fatigue, nausea, irritation and skin redness in the groin and abdominal area among them. Additionally, radiation therapy may lead to a temporal decrease in sperm counts in some patients. It, in turn, reduces fertility. Therefore, it is a good idea for the patient to discuss these aspects with the doctor.