What is a testicular cancer?
Cancer of the testis mainly occurs in men aged 20-40 years. They have the potential to spread elsewhere, and so can be life-threatening.
What symptoms do they cause?
Often, testicular cancers may cause no symptoms whatsoever, but may be felt as a lump in the testis. They can also occasionally cause pain and swelling. Lots of benign conditions can also cause similar swellings and symptoms, but you should always seek medical advice to rule out any cancer.
Cancers that are treated early have the best outlook, so it is very important that you perform regular self checks - every two weeks, carefully feel both testes for any abnormal lumps or swellings. The testes have a soft swelling on their side, called the epididymis - this is normal. Any other lumps, though, should make you seek medical advice as soon as possible.
What tests can be done?
Your specialist may organise blood tests and an ultrasound scan. Occasionally scans or x-rays may be performed of other body areas to check for any signs of spread.
What treatment can be done?
The mainstay of treatment is removal of the affected testis (orchidectomy). Under general anaesthetic, a cut is made in the groin crease, allowing the specialist to remove the testis and attached tubes. The wound is then stitched closed and you should be able to go home on the same or next day.
The tumour is sent to a lab to be diagnosed under a microscope - depending on the findings, radiotherapy or chemotherapy may also be necessary.
What are the effects of having a testis removed?
The testes produce hormones, and as long as your other testis is working normally, you should not notice any changes and will still be able to have children. If the other testis does not work, though, then you may need to take long-term hormone replacement medication. If you think you will want children after the surgery, then you should discuss sperm banking with your specialist before having the operation.
You may wish to consider a testicular prosthesis once your specialist is happy that no other treatment is needed. This is a silicone replacement that is inserted surgically into the scrotum, making the scrotal contents appear and feel as they did before the testis was removed.
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You may also be interested to read our articles on prostate cancer or bladder cancer
Other web resources:
NHS information on testicular cancer
National Cancer Institute - testicular cancer information
Any procedure involving skin incision can also result in unfavourable scarring, wound infection, or bleeding. This list of risks is not exhaustive, and you should discuss possible complications with your specialist. Whilst these risks will seem very worrysome, and indeed can be serious, it should also be borne in mind that many people have no postoperative problems whatsoever.
The information provided is for guidance only and you should discuss matters fully with your specialist before deciding if this is the right procedure for you. Please also read our disclaimer