Testicular Cancer occurs within the testicles of the male human species. Testes are located within the scrotum, which is a loose bag of skin located underneath the penis. Testicles are there to produce the male sex hormones & sperm which are required for reproduction. When compared with other types of cancers, occurrence of testicular cancer is rare. However, testicular cancer is one of the most common cancers in American males aged between 15 – 35 years. Nevertheless, testicular cancer is highly treatable even when it has spread to other areas beyond the testicle. Testicular cancer patients may receive any one of the several treatments or a combination of treatments which depend upon the stage & type of cancer. Regular self-examination of the testicles can effectively help identify early growths when chances of successful treatment of testicular treatment are the highest.
Signs & Symptoms of Testicular Cancer
It is sensible to consult a doctor when men detect swelling, pain or lumps in testicles or the groin areas, particularly so when these signs & symptoms listed below are found to last for over 2 weeks of time.
- Enlargement or lump in either testicle.
- Dull ache in groin or abdomen.
- Feeling of heaviness in the scrotum.
- A sudden collection of fluid in the scrotum.
- Discomfort or pain in scrotum or testicles.
- Pain in the back.
- Tenderness or enlargement of breasts.
- Cancer commonly affects only a single testicle.
Causes of Testicular Cancer
Actual causes of testicular cancer in most cases are still not clear. However, what doctors understand is that testicular cancer usually occurs when healthy cells within a testicle alter. Generally, healthy testicular cells divide & grow in an orderly fashion so as to keep normal functioning of the body. However, sometimes these cells develop abnormalities when this normal growth goes out of control. These cancerous testicular cells continue to divide even when these new cells are not needed. Subsequently, these cancerous cells accumulate in order to form a mass within the testicle. Almost all testicular cancers begin within the germ cells, which are in testicles producing immature sperms in men. What eventually causes these germ cells to become abnormal & develop into cancer is still not yet known.
Risk Factors Associated with Testicular Cancer
Following factors may increase the risk of testicular cancer in men.
- Cryptorchidism or Undescended Testicle – Testicles are originally formed in the abdominal area during fetal development. They usually descend into the scrotum only before birth. Some men who are having a testicle which never descended are at higher risk of testicular cancer in either of the testicles than men whose testicles have descended normally. This risk remains elevated even when the testicle was relocated into scrotum with help of surgery. However, majority of men developing testicular cancer do not have any history of undescended testicles.
- Abnormal Development of Testicle – Conditions like Klinefelter’s syndrome which cause testicles to develop abnormally are found to increase the risk of having testicular cancer in men.
- Age Factor – Testicular cancer is generally found to affect teens & younger men, especially between the ages of 15 – 35 years. However, testicular cancer can also affect men of all ages.
- Race – Development of testicular cancer is found to occur more in white men than among people of other races like black men.
- Family History of Testicular Cancer – Men have an increased risk of developing testicular cancer if any family member has had testicular cancer in the past.
Preparing for Initial Appointment with the Doctor
Men should, however, seek an appointment with a general practitioner or the family doctor when they find a lump on any one of the testicles. They may be referred to a specialist in diagnosing & treating conditions of the male reproductive system & the urinary tract. This can either be a urologist or an oncologist who specializes in treating cancer. It would be a good idea to go well prepared since such specialist appointments can be brief as there is a lot of ground to be covered. Take the following steps prior to going in for the initial appointment.
- Be Aware of Any Pre-Appointment Restrictions – Remember to ask if there is any restriction you need to take in advance at the time of seeking appointment.
- Jot Down Symptoms Experienced – Patients should write down symptoms they are experiencing including any which they feel is unrelated to the reason for which this appointment is scheduled.
- Write Down Personal Information – This can also include any recent changes in patient’s life or any major causes of stress.
- Note Down a List of All Medications – Patients need to let the doctor know of all medications they are currently taking including supplements and/or vitamins.
- Take Along a Family Member or Friend to Initial Appointment – Somebody should accompany the patient as it may be sometimes difficult to take-in all the information which was provided to the patient during the initial appointment. The accompanying person will be helpful in remembering what the patient may miss or forget.
Questions to Ask Doctors During Initial Appointment for Treatment of Testicular Cancer
Preparing a list of questions will immensely help patients make the most of their time with the doctor as the appointment is limited. Patients should begin with the most important to the least important just in case time runs out. Some basic testicular cancer questions to ask doctors during initial appointment are listed below.
- Am I having testicular cancer?
- What type of testicular cancer am I having?
- Can you please explain pathology report to me?
- Can I also have a copy of the pathology report?
- What stage is my testicular cancer in?
- Do I need to undergo any additional tests?
- What options do I have for treatment?
- What chances are there that my treatment will cure testicular cancer?
- Please explain me the risks & side effects of suggested treatment options?
- Is there any one treatment that you think is best in my case?
- What would you recommend to a family member or friend in a similar situation?
- Will I need to see any other specialist for treatment?
- Can you recommend another specialist in case I want to seek a second opinion?
- Will I have the ability to have children in future?
- Is there something I can do before treatment so as to plan for the possibility of infertility in future?
- Can you provide me with brochures or other printed material I can take along for more information on the subject?
- Which websites do you recommend I refer to?
Patients can ask any number of additional questions they can think of so as to help them make up their minds during initial appointment.
Common Questions Which Doctors Ask Testicular Cancer Patients
Doctors are most likely to ask a number of questions to testicular cancer patients. Being prepared to answer them will allow patients more time to cover other points they would like to address. Listed below are some common questions which doctors may ask.
- When did you first notice experiencing these symptoms?
- Have these symptoms been occasional or continuous?
- How severe are these symptoms?
- What is it, if anything, that you find to improve symptoms?
- What is it, if anything, which you find worsens symptoms?
Tests & Diagnosis for Testicular Cancer
In quite a few cases men themselves discover testicular cancer; sometimes unintentionally or when they are doing a testicular self-examination so as to check for lumps. While in other cases, doctors may be able to detect lumps during routine physical examination. Doctors will often also recommend patients take the following steps so as to determine whether a lump in the scrotum is testicular cancer.
- Ultrasound – Testicular ultrasound tests use sound waves so as to create images of testicles & scrotum. Patients during an ultrasound lie on their backs with legs spread. Doctors will then apply a clear gel to the scrotum. The hand-held probe is then moved over scrotum in order to make an ultrasound image. Ultrasound tests can also help doctors determine the nature of testicular lumps like if they were solid or fluid-filled. Ultrasound will also let doctors know if these lumps are located inside or outside of testicle.
- Blood Tests – Doctors may order blood tests so as to determine the level of tumor markers within the blood. Tumor markers basically are substances which normally occur in blood. Levels of these substances will be elevated in certain situations like when a patient is suffering from testicular cancer. High level of the tumor marker in blood, however, does not indicate the likelihood of cancer but may help doctors determine a diagnosis.
- Radical Inguinal Orchiectomy or Surgery to Remove Testicle – Once, the lump on the testicle is determined to be cancerous, surgery for removal of the testicle may be recommended by doctors. The removed testicle will later be analyzed so as to determine if the lump is cancerous, & if so, what type of testicular cancer.
Types of Testicular Cancer
While the extracted testicle will be analyzed & the type of testicular cancer determined, doctors will subsequently decide on the type of treatment procedure to be employed. Following are the two types of testicular cancers found in men.
- Seminoma – These tumors occur in all age groups. However, if an older man develops testicular cancer, chances are that it is most likely to be seminoma in nature. Generally, seminomas are not as aggressive as nonseminomas.
- Nonseminoma – These testicular tumors generally tend to develop early in life & spread & grow rapidly. There are several different types of nonseminoma tumors including teratoma, embryonal carcinoma, choriocarcinoma & yolk sac tumor.
Staging in Testicular Cancer
Once testicular cancer is confirmed by doctors, the next step is to determine the extent or the staging of cancer. Testicular cancer patients may have to undergo the following tests in order to determine whether cancer has spread outside the testicle.
- Computerized Tomography or CT Scan – These scans include taking a series of X-ray images of chest, abdomen & pelvis. Doctors generally use CT scans so as to look for signs if cancer has spread to other areas.
- Blood Tests – These blood tests are meant to look for elevated tumor markers which can eventually help doctors understand whether the cancer is likely to remain within the body after the testicle is surgically removed.
Testicular cancer is assigned a stage only after these tests have been performed. Staging helps doctors determine which treatment procedure would be most suitable. Stages of testicular cancer include the following.
- Stage I – When cancer is strictly limited to the testicle.
- Stage II – Cancer has spread to lymph nodes within the abdomen.
- Stage III – Testicular cancer has spread to other regions of the body; most commonly to the liver & lungs.
Testicular Cancer Treatments
Options for treating testicular cancer depend upon several factors including the stage & type of cancer, overall health & preferences of the patient.
Surgery for Testicular Cancer
Surgery may be the only available treatment option in early-stage testicular cancer cases. In such cases, doctors will recommend a schedule of follow-up appointments. These appointments are typically scheduled every few months for the first few years & subsequently less frequently. Testicular cancer patients will also undergo blood tests, CT scans & various other procedures, in order to check for signs in case cancer, has returned.
- Surgery to Remove Testicle – Radical Inguinal Orchiectomy is the primary treatment option for all types & stages of testicular cancer. Surgeons will make an incision in the groin of patients so as to remove the entire testicle through this opening. Another saline-filled prosthetic testicle can also be inserted in case patients choose to have one.
- Surgery to Remove Nearby Lymph Nodes – Also known as Retroperitoneal Lymph Node Dissection, this surgery is performed through an incision within the abdomen. Surgeons will take extra care so as to avoid damaging nerves surrounding lymph nodes, but then in some cases, harm to nerves may be inevitable. Moreover, these damaged nerves can cause difficulty with ejaculation, but will not prevent patients from having erections.
utilizes high-powered beams of energy, like X-rays, in order to kill cancerous cells
. Patients are positioned on a table during radiation therapy & a large machine moves around them, precisely aiming energy beams at selected points on the body of patients. Radiation therapy is also a treatment option which is sometimes used for patients having seminoma type of testicular cancer. It may often be recommended following surgery to remove the testicle. Side effects of radiation therapy may include fatigue, irritation in abdomen & groin areas & redness of skin as well. Patients should speak to the doctors about options for preserving sperms prior to undergoing radiation therapy.
Chemotherapy utilizes drugs so as to kill cancerous cells. These drugs travel throughout the body of the patient in order to kill cancer cells which may have migrated from the original testicular tumor to other regions. At times, chemotherapy may be the only treatment option or may be recommended by doctors before & after removal of lymph nodes in testicular cancer patients. Chemotherapy side effects depend upon the drugs that have been used in treatment. Common chemotherapy side effects include hair loss, nausea, fatigue & increased risk of infection. However, there are some medications & treatments which effectively reduce some of these chemotherapy side effects. Chemotherapy is most likely to cause infertility in patients which can be permanent. Testicular cancer patients should, therefore, talk to the doctors about methods for preserving sperms before undergoing chemotherapy.
Coping & Support for Testicular Cancer Patients
Eventually, all men come to terms with their testicular cancer & learn to deal with their ensuing emotions in their own way. Some patients may, however, feel scared & unsure of future after being diagnosed with testicular cancer. Although feelings of anxiety may persist, testicular cancer patients may create a plan so as to help & manage emotions by taking the following steps.
- Learn More About Testicular Cancer So As to Feel Comfortable & Make the Right Decisions – Testicular patients must write down questions which come to their mind & ask them to doctors during the next appointment. Doctors & other members of the healthcare team can also recommend other reputable sources for more information.
- Taking Proper Care – Testicular cancer patients should make healthy choices in everyday life while preparing for their treatment of cancer. They should eat a healthy diet which includes a variety of fruits & vegetables. It would also be sensible to get plenty of rest so that they can feel refreshed when they wake up every morning. Testicular cancer patients should also eliminate unnecessary stress so that they can concentrate on getting better. They should try to exercise on most days of the week & should stop smoking in case they do. These patients can also talk to the doctor about medications & other strategies which can help them stop smoking.
- Connecting with Other Testicular Cancer Survivors – Testicular cancer patients can find testicular cancer survivors within their community & online through the world-wide-web. They can also contact various cancer societies, for support groups within their area or in consultation with the doctors.
- Connecting with the Loved Ones – It would be sensible of testicular cancer patients to stay connected with family & friends who are equally concerned about their health. Do not turn them down as they want to help by offering assistance with errands & transportation to appointments. Family & close friends are the ones who will listen when cancer patients want to talk. They provide a welcome distraction when testicular cancer patients are feeling down.
Testicular Cancer Preventive Measures
There is no way to prevent the occurrence of testicular cancer. But then some doctors recommend regular self-examination of testicles in order to identify testicular cancer cases in early stages. Even though all doctors do not agree to self-examination of the testicles, it would be sensible to discuss this with the doctor for males who are unsure. For men who have chosen testicular self-examination, should know that an ideal time for examination is after they have had a warm bath or shower, as heat from the water will relax the scrotum & make it easier for them to find if anything is unusual. Men should also follow the steps mentioned below for testicular self-examination.
- Standing in Front of a Mirror – Men should look for any swelling on the skin of the scrotum.
- Examining Each Testicle with Both Hands – While placing thumbs on top, softly place the middle & index fingers under the testicles.
- Gently Roll Testicle Between Thumb & Fingers – Remember that testicles are typically smooth, somewhat firm & oval in shape. However, it is also normal for one testicle to be slightly smaller or larger than the other. The epididymis is the cord leading upward from the top of the testicle is a normal structure of the scrotum. Men will become more familiar with testicles & be aware of any changes which might be of concern by regularly performing this self-examination. Moreover, they should realize making an appointment with the doctor in case they find any lump within the scrotum.
Affordable Testicular Cancer Treatment in India
Men who develop swelling, lumps or pain within the groin or scrotal area would generally be worried that they may be having testicular cancer. Healthcare, which is typically rising above the reach of common man across the globe, especially in the developed western nations, is ideally affordable within the Indian subcontinent. Medical services in India are of high-quality & confirming to international standards, & competing with the best in the world. Top surgeons in the country including oncologists are well trained & experienced having spent decades practicing medicine in countries like the UK, Canada & United States before returning to their homeland. IndianMedTrip is one of the fastest growing medical tourism companies in South Asia, providing a wide spectrum of low-cost healthcare solutions including oncology treatments like surgery for testicular cancer to international patients. Healthcare professionals associated with IndianMedTrip will also be glad to combine an exotic recuperative vacation at reasonable costs to go along with your treatment so as to make your wellness travel a memorable experience.