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Testicular cancer is a cancer of the male testes. Cells grow abnormally and can form a mass that has cells break off, travelling to lymph nodes and to other body areas. The testes are paired male sex glands that produce the hormone testosterone and spermatozoa. The hormone is responsible for the production of spermatozoa and for the secondary sex characteristics. The testes are located side by side in the male scrotum, a sac at the base of the penis.
Testicular cancer can be seminomas or nonseminomas. Seminomas come in three different varieties: spermatocytic, anaplastic or classic. Nonseminomas are listed as embryonal carcinoma, teratoma, choriocarcinoma and yolk sac tumours. Some tumours of the testicle contain aspects of seminomas and nonseminomas.
Testicular carcinoma is not common, making up only about 1 percent of all cancers in men. This amounts to 8,000 men diagnosed per year. About 390 percent of all men die each year of this type of cancer. Most men who suffer from the disease get it between the ages of 15 and 34. Caucasians suffer from the disease most often, especially men of Scandinavian descent. The rate of testicular cancer is increasing, having nearly doubled in the last 40 years.
No one knows exactly why there are cases of testicular cancer. There are risk factors, however, and these include the following:
Testicular cancer can be detected by a physical examination although many men determine that they have testicular cancer by themselves. The finding is that of a painless lump in the testicle, along with swelling and pain of the affected area. The testicle can feel enlarged or heavier than normal. There can be a dull pain in the groin, low back or abdomen. Fluid can collect in the scrotum. If the man notices any of these findings, he should contact his doctor for further evaluation.
In evaluating the cause of the symptoms of testicular cancer, the doctor can do some blood tests. Tests can be done of tumor markers, which are elevated in testicular cancer. These include beta-HCG, alpha fetoprotein and lactate dehydrogenase. These can detect tumours too small to be seen by the human eye.
An ultrasound can also detect small tumours of the testicle. It can show the shape, location and size of the tumor so it can be correctly biopsied to see what kind of tumour it is and if it is fluid or solid. Following this, a biopsy is done which can identify the type of tumour in the testicle.
More than 95 percent of testicular cancers are curable. Treatment is better and more successful when the disease is found early. In such cases, the treatment is less aggressive and causes fewer side effects.
Treatment involves removing the affected testicle with surgery, the receiving of radiation therapy and possibly chemotherapy. Side effects are different depending on the person and dosage of therapy. Surgery involves an orchiectomy through an incision in the groin. It is called a radical inguinal orchiectomy. Because the other testicle is spared, potency and fertility are spared as well. An artificial or prosthetic testicle can be inserted for cosmetic purposes.
Radiation therapy is important for testicular cancer. Testicular cancer is very radiosensitive and may be used in lieu of chemotherapy. It can be used on the lymph nodes near the testicle. Chemotherapy is used for advanced cancer, when the tumor has spread to other body areas.
Complications of testicular cancer include failure to diagnose the cancer in time and using the wrong form of treatment for the type of cancer involved.
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