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Testicular Cancer (Malignant Tumor of the Testes)

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Testicular cancer is one of the most common cancers in males. It is mainly seen in teens and in adults before the age of 40 years. However, it can occur in any age group and should be considered as a possible cause of testicular pain or lumps in senior men. Testicular cancer occurs in the testicles or testes, which are found inside the scrotum, underneath the penis. The testicles produce sperm and male sex hormones like testosterone. Even though older men may not have the same level of sperm count and male hormones in the senior years, this does not mean that they cannot develop testicular cancer.

Types of Testicular Cancer

Testicular cancer can be of two types:

  1. Seminoma
  2. Non-seminoma

Seminomas

Seminoma tumors may occur in all age groups, but are more common in older men. Seminomas are less aggressive and respond well to radiation therapy.

Non-seminomas

Non-seminoma tumors grow and spread rapidly. These are more common in teens and younger men. Non-seminoma tumors can be of different sub-types like embryonal carcinoma, choriocarcinoma, yolk sac tumor, and teratoma. Non-seminomas respond well to chemotherapy.

Testicular Cancer Symptoms

Symptoms of testicular cancer may include the following:

  • A lump on one or both testicles
  • Presence of a mass or heaviness in the scrotum
  • Discomfort, tenderness or pain in the scrotum or a testicle
  • A dull ache in the groin or abdomen in some cases
  • Tenderness of the breasts

Causes of Testicular Cancer

The causes of testicular cancer are not known. In healthy testicles, cells grow and divide in a regular manner to keep the testicles functioning normally. However, sometimes some cells change or mutate. Such changes upset the normal pattern of division. As a result, cells keep dividing at an abnormal rate resulting in an accumulated mass.

In testicular cancer the germ cells, which produce immature sperms, start dividing abnormally. The causes of their abnormal growth and development into cancer are not known.

Risk factors

The following factors increase the chances of developing testicular cancer:

  • Cryptorchidism or undescended testicles
  • Abnormal testicle development like in Klinefelter’s syndrome
  • Family history of testicular cancer
  • Age – particularly younger males (15 to 35 year age group being the highest risk)

Treatment

The presence of a lump in the testicles indicates possibility of testicular cancer. An ultrasound of the scrotum and testicles can confirm an abnormal growth.

Surgery

Surgery is recommended in cases of early-stage testicular cancer. In a surgical procedure called inguinal orchiectomy, a cut is made in the groin and the entire testicle is extracted through the opening. If preferred, a prosthetic testicle can be inserted during the surgery. In some patients, the lymph nodes in the groin are also removed while performing inguinal orchiectomy.

Radiation therapy

Radiation therapy is preferred treatment option for seminoma testicular cancer. In radiation therapy, high-power energy rays are used to kill cancer cells. Radiation therapy may have side effects like fatigue, skin tenderness and irritation in the groin and abdominal areas.

Chemotherapy

With chemotherapy, different drugs are used to kill cancer cells. Chemotherapy works well for patients in whom cancer has spread. Chemotherapy is often recommended after surgery or before or after removing lymph nodes. Common side effects of chemotherapy include nausea, fatigue, infertility, hair loss, and weak immunity.

 


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