by Kimberly Allen, RN
Although testicular cancer is considered rare with approximately 8,000 men being diagnosed each year in the US, it is the most common type of cancer diagnosed in Caucasian males, especially men of Scandinavian descent, in the US. In fact, the incidence of testicular cancer in Caucasian men has more than doubled over the past 40 years. Recently the number of African American men diagnosed with testicular cancer has also started to go up.
Though the exact cause of testicular cancer is unknown studies have indicated that there are several factors that can increase your risk of developing this type of cancer. Males whose testicles were not descended from their abdomen down to their scrotum before birth have an increased risk of developing testicular cancer. Also, this risk does not go down even once the testicle(s) have been surgically placed into the scrotum. It can be only one testicle or both that did not descend into the scrotum to increase your risk. Males that have congenital abnormalities involving the testicles and penis as well as the kidneys also have an increased risk of developing testicular cancer. If you were born with a hernia in your groin area your chances of developing testicular cancer may be higher. If you have a family history like a father or brother that has or had testicular cancer there’s a greater chance you could also and if you have had testicular cancer in one testicle there’s a significant chance you’ll develop it in the other.
There are several types of testicular cancer that are categorized into two classifications; seminomas and nonseminomas. There are three types of seminomas, anaplastic, classic and spermocytic. On the other side choriocarcinoma, embryonal carcinoma and teratoma as well as yolk sac tumors are nonseminomas. However, testicular tumors can have both seminoma and nonseminoma cells.
Just as women perform regular self breast exams men should examine their testicles for any lumps or changes. Though not all testicular tumors are malignant you should contact your doctor if you notice any swelling or a painless lump in one or both testicles. Also, if you are experiencing any pain or discomfort in either your testicles or scrotum. If you have a feeling of heaviness in your scrotum and/or a dull ache in your back, lower abdomen or groin you should call your doctor.
Fortunately testicular cancer has one of the highest cure rates of all types of cancer with a success rate over 95% and that increased to nearly 100% if it is diagnosed early. As with most cancers treatment depends on the type and stage your cancer is in when diagnosed as well as your overall health and personal preference. In most cases treatment will involve surgery to remove your testicles, this is standard treatment for almost all types and stages of testicular cancer. Depending on how advanced your cancer is you may also need to have the lymph nodes in your groin removed. In many cases where the cancer is diagnosed early surgery is the only treatment needed. however, if your cancer is advanced your doctor will most likely recommend additional treatment which can include chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy. Radiation therapy is frequently used if you have a seminoma type of testicular cancer, but is also used to treat some forms of nonseminoma testicular cancers. Chemotherapy can be used to treat all forms of testicular cancer and is frequently used after surgery either alone or with radiation therapy.
It’s important to remember not all lumps are tumors and not all tumors are cancerous. There are a variety of other conditions that may be painful but are not cancerous including testicular microlithiasis and epididymal cysts so contact your doctor for an exam if you notice any changes in your scrotum or testicles.
Kimberly Allen is a registered nurse with an AND in nursing. She has worked in ACF, LCF and psychiatric facilities, although she spent most of her career as a home health expert. She is now a regular contributor to HealthAndFitnessTalk.com, dispensing advice and knowledge about medical issues and questions. You can reach her with any comments or questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.