The testicles are the male sex glands and are part of the male reproductive system. Testicles are also called testes or gonads. They are located behind the penis in a pouch of skin called the scrotum.
Cancer that develops in a testicle is called testicular cancer. Testicular cancer is one of the most curable forms of cancer. There are two main types of testicular cancer: seminomas and nonseminomas. These cancers grow from germ cells, the cells that make sperm.
When testicular cancer spreads, the cancer cells are carried by blood or by lymph, an almost colorless fluid produced by tissues all over the body. The fluid passes through lymph nodes, which filter out bacteria and other abnormal substances such as cancer cells.
Highlights of testicular cancer treatments and services offered at Northwell Health include:
- A focus on treating testicular cancer while preserving normal life functions, including nerve-sparing techniques
- Minimally invasive laparoscopic surgery performed by expert surgeons resulting in a shorter hospital stay, faster recovery time and more favorable cosmetic result
- Cutting-edge chemotherapy treatments
- FACT-accredited stem cell transplantation program
- Clinical trials of new therapies for testicular cancer
Multidisciplinary testicular cancer treatment
The multidisciplinary team is experienced in complex, high-risk cancers like testicular cancer. Within the first several days of a visit to Northwell Health, the team will conduct comprehensive tests and develop a personalized testicular cancer treatment program.
Each diagnosis is unique, so the team meets regularly to discuss patient treatment during weekly teleconferences where testicular cancer physicians share ideas and best practices for delivering collaborative patient care. The specialists review each treatment phase to constantly improve cancer care and ensure treatment milestones are reached.
The exact cause of testicular cancer is not known. However, there are a number of factors that increase the risk for the disease.
Research shows that some men are more likely than others to develop testicular cancer. Possible risk factors include the following:
- Age - about half of all testicular cancers occur in men between the ages of 20 and 34
- Cryptorchidism - this refers to undescended testicle(s)
- Family history
- Personal history of cancer in the other testicle
- Race and ethnicity - the rate of testicular cancer is higher in whites than in other populations.
- HIV infection
The following are the most common symptoms for testicular cancer. However, each individual may experience symptoms differently:
- Lump in either testicle, which is usually not painful
- Enlargement of a testicle
- Feeling of heaviness in the scrotum
- Dull ache in the lower abdomen or in the groin
- Sudden collection of fluid in the scrotum
- Pain or discomfort in a testicle or in the scrotum
The symptoms of testicular cancer may resemble other conditions or medical problems. Always consult a doctor for a diagnosis.
In addition to a complete medical history and physical examination, diagnostic procedures for testicular cancer may include the following:
- Ultrasound - a diagnostic technique which uses high-frequency sound waves to create an image. This test can be used to determine if a lump on a testicle is solid or filled with fluid. (Solid lumps are more likely to be cancerous.)
- Blood tests - assessment of blood samples to check for increased levels of certain proteins and enzymes to help determine if cancerous cells are present, or to determine how much cancer is present.
- Biopsy - a procedure in which tissue samples are removed (during surgery) from the body for examination under a microscope to determine if cancer is present.
When testicular tumors are present, the entire tumor, as well as the testicle and spermatic cord, is typically removed during the biopsy to prevent the spread of cancerous cells through the blood and lymph systems.
Staging is the process of determining if and how far the cancer has spread. Treatment options are based on the results of staging. Procedures for determining stage include the following:
- Computed tomography scan (also called a CT or CAT scan). A diagnostic imaging procedure that uses a combination of X-rays and computer technology to produce horizontal, or axial, images (often called slices) of the body. A CT scan shows detailed images of any part of the body, including the bones, muscles, fat and organs. CT scans are more detailed than general X-rays.
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). A diagnostic procedure that uses a combination of large magnets, radiofrequencies, and a computer to produce detailed images of organs and structures within the body. It is sometimes used to look for spread of the cancer to the brain.
In addition to these imaging procedures, chest X-rays, positron emission tomography (PET) scans, or other scans may be requested.