Testicular Cancer

Testicular cancer, although rare, is the most common cancer in young men. It affects one in 199 men overall. As with any cancer, the cause is unknown, although there are some risk factors such as a family history of testicular cancer, an inactive lifestyle and having an undescended testicle.

Cancer occurs when cells divide and grow abnormally, forming a lump, or tumour. Tumours can be either benign or malignant. Benign tumours do not spread to other parts of the body. Malignant tumours are able to spread beyond their original site, and if they are not treated, can invade and destroy surrounding tissues.

Caught at an early stage, testicular cancer has a more than 95% cure rate. It is therefore vital that you regularly check your testicles for any changes in shape and texture, or for the presence or lumps.

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Testicular Cancer symptoms

Look out for the following symptoms:

  • Painless swelling in part of one testicle.
  • Feeling of heaviness in the scrotum.
  • Tender, swollen testicle.
  • Generally feeling unwell, or having a backache, stomach ache or similar.

If you do find a swelling, see your GP as soon as possible. Most cases of testicular cancer can be cured if it is caught at an early stage.

Testicular Cancer diagnosis

Your GP will usually examine your testicles. You will then be referred to a specialist for a full physical examination. You are likely to have a special ultrasound test. This uses sound waves to build up a picture of your testes and scrotum.

However, the only way to know for sure that the swelling is cancer is for a surgeon to examine the testicle during an operation and perform a blood test.

Blood tests

  • Some testicular cancers release chemicals into the bloodstream.
  • The presence of these chemicals shows whether the cancer has spread.

Surgery (orchidectomy)

  • If cancer is present, the testicle must be surgically removed.
  • The removal of one testicle does not affect your ability to have an erection or to father children.
  • An artificial testicle can be inserted into your scrotum to maintain a normal appearance.

 Following the operation further scans will be conducted to check whether the cancer has spread.

Testicular Cancer treatment

If the cancer has not spread, removal of the testicle may be the only treatment you need.

Other options include:

Radiotherapy

  • Uses targeted radiation to destroy cancer cells, while avoiding normal cells.
  • Can prevent the cancer from returning or kill cancer cells that have spread beyond the testicles, for example, to the glands at the back of the abdomen.

Chemotherapy

  • An anti-cancer (cytotoxic) medicine is used to destroy cancer cells.
  • Usually given to people where the cancer has spread to other parts of the body, such as the lymph glands in the abdomen or the chest. The prognosis however still remains good.
  • Side effects vary depending on the exact medicine that is taken.
  • Chemotherapy treatment for testicular cancer has a high success rate.

Need more information?

Speak to your GP or consultant if you notice any symptoms of testicular cancer or to discuss treatment options.

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