top of page

Testicular cancer

Καρκίνος όρχι

Testicular cancer is a type of cancer that begins in the testicles, which are the male reproductive glands located in the scrotum. The testicles, or testes, are responsible for producing sperm and male hormones, including testosterone. Testicular cancer typically starts when certain cells in the testicles undergo genetic mutations, leading to uncontrolled growth and the formation of a tumor.
There are different types of testicular cancer, but the most common type is known as "germ cell tumors." Germ cell tumors originate from the cells that produce sperm. Testicular cancer can occur in one or both testicles, but it is more commonly found in only one.



While the exact causes of testicular cancer are not well understood, certain risk factors have been associated with an increased likelihood of developing the disease. It's important to note that having one or more of these risk factors does not guarantee that a person will develop testicular cancer. Conversely, some individuals with testicular cancer may have no identifiable risk factors. Common risk factors for testicular cancer include:

  1. Cryptorchidism: Undescended Testicle(s): Men who had one or both testicles fail to descend into the scrotum during fetal development (a condition known as cryptorchidism) have an increased risk of testicular cancer. The risk is highest when the condition is present in both testicles, and the risk remains elevated even if the condition was surgically corrected.

  2. Family History: A family history of testicular cancer, particularly in a father or brother, may slightly increase the risk. The exact genetic factors contributing to this increased risk are not yet fully understood.

  3. Klinefelter Syndrome: Men with Klinefelter syndrome, a genetic condition characterized by having an extra X chromosome (XXY), have a higher risk of testicular cancer. This risk is more significant if they also have cryptorchidism.

  4. Race and Ethnicity: Testicular cancer is more common in white men than in men of other racial or ethnic backgrounds. The reasons for this racial disparity are not entirely clear.

  5. Age: Testicular cancer is most common in young and middle-aged men, with the highest incidence occurring between the ages of 15 and 44. The risk decreases significantly after the age of 44.

  6. HIV Infection: Some studies have suggested a slightly increased risk of testicular cancer in men with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection.

It's important to understand these risk factors and take preventive measures where possible. For example, if cryptorchidism is diagnosed in childhood, it can often be surgically corrected to reduce the risk of testicular cancer. Regular self-examinations and medical check-ups are also essential for early detection and prompt treatment of testicular cancer, which can lead to more favorable outcomes. However, most cases of testicular cancer occur in individuals without any known risk factors.


Causes of Testicular Cancer

Testicular cancer may present with various symptoms, but it's important to note that not all individuals with testicular cancer experience noticeable symptoms, especially in the early stages. When symptoms do occur, they can be subtle or mistaken for other conditions. Common symptoms of testicular cancer include:

  1. Lump or Swelling: A painless lump or enlargement in one of the testicles is often the most common and noticeable symptom. The lump may be small or can grow larger over time. It may feel hard or firm to the touch.

  2. Pain or Discomfort: Some men with testicular cancer may experience a dull ache or discomfort in the lower abdomen, pelvis, or scrotum. This pain is not always present and may come and go.

  3. Heaviness: A feeling of heaviness or fullness in the scrotum, particularly in the affected testicle, may be present.

  4. Changes in Testicle Shape or Size: One testicle may become noticeably larger or change in shape compared to the other.

  5. Back Pain: In some cases, testicular cancer can cause lower back pain, although this is less common and usually occurs when the cancer has already spread.

  6. Fluid Accumulation: An accumulation of fluid in the scrotum (hydrocele) may develop in some cases.

  7. Breast Enlargement (Gynecomastia): Rarely, testicular cancer can produce hormones that cause breast enlargement in men.

It's important to emphasize that these symptoms can also be related to non-cancerous conditions, such as testicular infections, epididymitis, or testicular torsion. Nonetheless, if you notice any of these symptoms, especially if they persist, worsen, or are accompanied by a painless lump in the testicle, it is crucial to seek prompt medical evaluation by a healthcare provider. Early detection and diagnosis are key to improving the chances of successful treatment and a favorable outcome in testicular cancer. Regular self-examinations can also aid in early detection, and healthcare providers often recommend that men perform monthly self-exams.


Symptoms of Testicular Cancer

The diagnosis of testicular cancer typically involves a series of medical evaluations, tests, and procedures to confirm the presence of cancer, determine its type and stage, and guide treatment decisions. Here is an overview of the diagnostic process for testicular cancer:

  1. Medical History and Physical Examination:

    • The initial step is often a comprehensive medical history, where the patient discusses any symptoms, risk factors, and relevant health information.

    • A thorough physical examination is conducted to assess the scrotum and testicles. The healthcare provider examines for any lumps, swelling, or abnormalities in the testicles or scrotum.

  2. Scrotal Ultrasound:

    • A scrotal ultrasound is a non-invasive imaging test that uses high-frequency sound waves to create detailed images of the testicles and scrotum. It can help identify the presence of a mass or abnormal growth in the testicle.

  3. Blood Tests:

    • Blood tests may be performed to measure the levels of specific tumor markers associated with testicular cancer. The most common tumor markers include alpha-fetoprotein (AFP), beta-human chorionic gonadotropin (β-hCG), and lactate dehydrogenase (LDH). Elevated levels of these markers can indicate the presence of cancer.

  4. Biopsy:

    • In most cases, a biopsy is not necessary to diagnose testicular cancer. Biopsy of a testicular mass is generally avoided because it can potentially spread cancer cells. Instead, the presence of specific tumor markers, combined with ultrasound findings, can provide a strong indication of cancer.

  5. Orchiectomy:

    • In many cases, if testicular cancer is suspected based on ultrasound and tumor marker results, the primary treatment and diagnostic procedure is an orchiectomy, which is the surgical removal of the affected testicle.

    • The removed testicle is sent to a pathologist for examination, which confirms the diagnosis, identifies the type of testicular cancer (e.g., seminoma or non-seminoma), and determines the extent of tumor invasion.

  6. Staging:

    • Once testicular cancer is confirmed, it is staged to determine the extent of the disease. Staging helps assess whether the cancer is localized to the testicle or has spread to nearby lymph nodes or distant organs.

The results of these diagnostic tests and procedures guide the healthcare team in developing a personalized treatment plan tailored to the specific characteristics of the cancer and the patient's overall health. Treatment options for testicular cancer depend on the type and stage of the cancer but may include surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, or surveillance.
Early detection and prompt diagnosis are crucial for improving outcomes in testicular cancer. If you have any concerning symptoms or risk factors associated with testicular cancer, it is important to consult with a healthcare provider for a proper evaluation and diagnosis.


Diagnosis of Testicular Cancer

The treatment of testicular cancer depends on the type and stage of the cancer, as well as the overall health and preferences of the patient. Testicular cancer is highly treatable, even if it has spread to other parts of the body. Common treatment options include:

  1. Orchiectomy (Surgical Removal of the Testicle):

    • Orchiectomy is the primary treatment for testicular cancer. During this surgery, the affected testicle is removed. If the cancer is limited to one testicle, this procedure may be curative.

  2. Retroperitoneal Lymph Node Dissection (RPLND):

    • If the cancer has spread to nearby lymph nodes, a retroperitoneal lymph node dissection (RPLND) may be performed. This surgery involves the removal of lymph nodes located at the back of the abdomen. RPLND is often used for non-seminomatous germ cell tumors.

  3. Radiation Therapy:

    • Radiation therapy uses high-energy rays to target and kill cancer cells. It may be used after surgery (adjuvant radiation therapy) to prevent cancer recurrence or, in some cases, to treat cancer that has spread to nearby lymph nodes.

  4. Chemotherapy:

    • Chemotherapy involves the use of powerful drugs to kill cancer cells or stop their growth. Chemotherapy is commonly used for testicular cancer, especially for non-seminomatous germ cell tumors or when the cancer has spread beyond the testicle. Several chemotherapy regimens are effective against testicular cancer, often based on a combination of drugs.

  5. Targeted Therapy:

    • Targeted therapy drugs specifically target cancer cells or their supporting structures, interfering with their growth. Drugs like pembrolizumab and nivolumab are examples of immunotherapy drugs that have shown effectiveness against certain types of testicular cancer.

  6. High-Dose Chemotherapy with Stem Cell Transplant:

    • In cases of advanced or recurrent testicular cancer, high-dose chemotherapy may be used, followed by a stem cell transplant. High-dose chemotherapy aims to destroy cancer cells more effectively but also damages the bone marrow. Stem cell transplant helps restore healthy bone marrow function.

  7. Surveillance:

    • In cases of very early-stage testicular cancer, where the tumor markers have normalized after surgery, patients may be placed under surveillance. This involves regular medical check-ups, imaging tests, and blood tests to monitor for any signs of recurrence. If necessary, further treatment can be initiated promptly.

The specific treatment plan is determined by a multidisciplinary team of healthcare professionals, which may include urologists, medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, and other specialists. The choice of treatment depends on factors such as the type and stage of the cancer, tumor markers, and the overall health of the patient.
It's important for individuals diagnosed with testicular cancer to discuss their treatment options, potential side effects, and long-term prognosis with their healthcare team. Additionally, seeking a second opinion can provide valuable insights into the most appropriate treatment approach. Testicular cancer patients often have excellent survival rates, especially when diagnosed early and treated promptly.


Treatment of Testicular Cancer

bottom of page