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Testicular Cancer

Everything you need to know about living well with testicular cancer

  • Introduction
  • Types
  • Symptoms
  • Daily Living
  • Support
  • Glossary

Introduction

If you or someone you know has been given a diagnosis of testicular cancer, this guide may help you understand more about the condition.

You may be wondering, what is testicular cancer? NRS Healthcare are here to help explain this, as well as explore testicular cancer symptoms, treatments for testicular cancer, what causes testicular cancer, and types of testicular cancer. We hope you find this guide useful, and we hope it raises awareness of the signs of testicular cancer.

Introduction

What is testicular cancer?

Testicular cancer is a type of cancer that only affects men (or a person with male genitalia who may identify as female). It develops in the testicles – these are two small organs that hang below the penis, housed within a bag of skin called the scrotum and which are responsible for producing sperm.

Testicular cancer affects more than 2000 men in the UK each year, so it is not a common type of cancer and it also has a 98% survival rate, with early diagnosis being key to successful treatment. White men are more at risk of developing testicular cancer but it is not understood why this is the case.

To find out more about testicular cancer, visit the NHS website.

What causes testicular cancer?

Cancer is a disease that starts when the body’s cells grow and duplicate abnormally to create tumours which can be benign (non-cancerous) or cancerous, where the tumour grows and may spread to other parts of the body.

Cancer Research UK provides a clear explanation of what causes cancer.

Testicular cancer begins in this way and experts are not clear on the definite causes of testicular cancer. However, there are some conditions that are linked to a higher risk of developing testicular cancer:

Undescended testicles – this is a condition where the testicles remain in a baby’s abdomen instead of moving down into the scrotum. Sometimes, a boy will need to have surgery to correct this. Testicular cancer may be a risk for males who do not have this condition corrected or who have surgery in adolescence rather than at a younger age. Read more about undescended testicles

Carcinoma in situ – this is the presence of abnormal testicular cells, which may develop into cancer at some stage, but which is usually only detected during fertility tests

Fertility problems – men with certain types of fertility challenges may be at increased risk of testicular cancer

Family history – as with many cancers, having a family history of testicular cancer may increase a man’s risk of developing it himself

Men with HIV/AIDS, inguinal hernia or hypospadias – men with these health conditions are also at increased risk of developing testicular cancer, but experts do not yet understand why

Read more about risks and what causes testicular cancer.

Did you know... "Testicular cancer affects around 2000 men in the UK each year."

Types of Testicular Cancer

Read on to find out more about the stages and types of testicular cancer.

There are two main types of testicular cancer. The testicular cancer type that a man has is usually determined by examining testicle tissue. Most men will have their affected testicle removed after their diagnosis and, at this point, the testicle will be analysed to find out what type of testicular cancer is present. Testicular cancers are usually seminoma or non-seminoma cancers. Whilst these are different types, they are subject to the same testicular cancer treatments and have similar survival rates. Non-seminoma cancers tend to grow faster than seminomas.

Introduction

There are other types of testicular cancer which are very rare such as lymphoma or mesothelioma cancers.

Testicular cancer is given a stage, to help identify the severity of it, with stage 1 being an early stage with no spread, stage 2 being spread into nearby areas or lymph nodes and stage 3a/b/c being spread to lymph nodes and organs that are further away from the testicles. Stage 3 is broken down according to how “at risk” a person is of their cancer coming back if it is treatable.

Read more about types of testicular cancer.

Diagnosis of testicular cancer

Testicular cancer is mostly first noticed as a lump or swelling in one or both testicles, which should be investigated straight away by a GP. This is not necessarily testicular cancer, but it needs to be checked just in case. Some men find it embarrassing to talk about their testicles, even with a doctor, but health has to come first and doctors have seen it all before.

Your GP is likely to examine your testicles and feel for any irregularities. They may also shine a light on the testicles. If your GP thinks there is a risk you have cancer, you will need to have further tests such as an ultrasound scan and blood tests. Blood tests look for hormone markers in the blood that can indicate cancer is present in the body. This is usually sufficient to confirm a testicular cancer diagnosis.

Did you know... "Testicular cancer is caused by cancerous cells that develop in one or both testicles and is usually noticed as a lump or swelling in the scrotum."

Testicular Cancer Symptoms

Here we describe the most common symptoms of testicular cancer.

Symptoms of testicular cancer are mostly changes to the testicles and scrotum. It is important for men to check their testicles regularly to ensure there are no changes, such as irregularities, lumps, bumps, hardness and so on. It is important to get used to how the testicles feel and look, so that any changes can be noticed. Boys should be informed about checking for signs of testicular cancer from a young age.

Testicular cancer treatment can cure the disease, if a testicular cancer diagnosis is made early enough. It is really important for men to get any possible symptoms checked straight away. Below, we list the symptoms of testicular cancer that are common in early stages, and also signs of testicular cancer that may have spread to other parts of the body.

Introduction

Testicular cancer symptoms include:

• Feeling a lump in the testicle which could be really small like a pea, or larger

• Feeling that one or both testicles are swollen or bigger than normal

• Feeling that one/both of the testicles or the scrotum is heavier than normal

• Feeling pain or discomfort in the testicle/s or scrotum area

It is important for everybody, both men and women, to make themselves aware of the symptoms of testicular cancer. However, it must be noted that the symptoms listed above may not be testicular cancer; non-cancerous conditions can cause these symptoms too, for example, a cyst, inflammation, varicose veins, build-up of fluid, or injury to the testicles. A lump may also be non-cancerous (benign).

Testicular cancer that has developed further and spread to other parts of the body is likely to result in further symptoms, depending on where in the body the cancer is present, such as:

• Coughing

• Breathlessness

• Pain in the tummy

• Backache

• Spitting up blood

Some men may find that their breasts feel swollen or larger, which may be due to an increase in certain hormones present in the body due to the cancer.

If you, or someone you know, have these symptoms, it’s important to get checked out so that if a testicular cancer diagnosis is given, treatment is likely to be more effective. Read more about testicular cancer symptoms.

Did you know... "Testicular cancer is very treatable if diagnosed early enough."

Living with Testicular Cancer

Here, we explore some of the challenges and realities of living with testicular cancer.

Receiving a diagnosis of testicular cancer is inevitably going to be a big thing to deal with. Each man will have a different experience, and will deal differently with the diagnosis. The type of testicular cancer a man has, the stage it is at, and how effective treatment is will affect their experience of living with the disease.

Here, we explore some of the ways testicular cancer impacts upon daily life, including wellbeing, and provide options for seeking emotional testicular cancer support.

Introduction

Impact on daily living

Testicular cancer may affect daily life in the following ways:

Symptoms and diagnosis – testicular cancer symptoms are likely to be worrying and this can cause considerable anxiety for some men. The symptoms are often not painful, so they do not necessarily affect daily life, but the pressure of seeing a doctor and waiting for test results can be difficult to cope with

Treatment – testicular cancer treatment usually involves surgery to remove the affected testicle. This may be a difficult thing for a man to deal with and some men feel that this impacts upon their masculinity and body image. Other treatments may also be necessary if the cancer is more advanced, such as chemotherapy, which has many side effects that can affect daily life

Fertility – some men may be concerned that testicular cancer will affect their ability to have a child. Usually, removal of just one testicle does not affect a man’s fertility, unless the other testicle does not work properly. However, some men undergo sperm banking before their operation, in order to freeze and store sperm to protect their fertility. Read more about sperm banking

Sex and relationships – some men find that their sex life changes due to their testicular cancer or treatment for testicular cancer. Some men feel that their body image and confidence is affected by testicle removal or that their desire for sex is affected by the ordeal of cancer. Read more about testicular cancer and sex

Emotional and mental health effects – testicular cancer diagnosis and treatments for testicular cancer can affect men’s mental health and they will likely deal with this in different ways. There are lots of mental health services available and support for dealing with cancer diagnosis

Prognosis and survival – it’s likely that each man affected by testicular cancer is going to consider if he will die from the disease. Testicular cancer is highly treatable, particularly if it is detected early. Men are likely to need regular check-ups after their treatment, even if they are cured of the condition, to ensure cancer does not come back. This can feel as though cancer is ‘hanging over their head’ and some people find it difficult to live with the possibility that they will develop the disease again. Others find that their attitude to life changes somewhat, and they are able to take each day as it comes

Read about the experiences of other men who have had or who are living with testicular cancer

Testicular cancer treatments

Testicular cancer is very treatable and most men can be cured of the disease. It is really important to get an early diagnosis of testicular cancer, so that it is caught before the cancer has time to spread to other areas of the body.

The most common treatment for testicular cancer is removal of the affected testicle, or both testicles if the cancer is present in both. The official, medical name of this procedure is an orchidectomy. In other types of cancer, it may be more usual to remove just the tumour and surrounding tissues, but in testicular cancer, removing the tumour actually makes it more likely that the cancerous cells will remain and spread. During an orchidectomy, the testicle is removed through the abdomen. There are, of course, side effects, including fatigue and pain. Removing just one testicle is not likely to affect a man’s fertility, but removing both will mean they are no longer able to produce sperm or have biological children (or more children if they are already a father).

During an operation to remove the testicle/s, it is possible to have a prosthetic testicle put in its place, which some men choose to do and others do not. A prosthetic could also be inserted at a later date.

Other treatments may be required, such as:

Testosterone replacement therapy – normally required if both testicles are removed, or if one testicle is removed and the other is faulty

Chemotherapy and radiotherapy – usually only required if the cancerous cells have spread from the testicles to other sites around the body

Other surgeries – including, for example, surgery to remove tumours from the lung or other organs, if the cancer has spread to these

After successful treatment, testicular cancer patients require regular check-ups in the first couple of years, to ensure the cancer does not return, and they may have further tests and checks each year for up to 10 years until they are deemed cancer-free.

Exercise for testicular cancer

Physical activity is important for everyone, and can be very beneficial whilst living with a testicular cancer diagnosis or after having testicular cancer treatment. A programme of exercise for testicular cancer patients can be beneficial as it will:

• Stimulate endorphins to relieve low mood and anxiety

• Help combat fatigue – a common side effect of cancer and treatment

• Reduce the risk of developing other cancers and health conditions

• Help keep the bones and joints supple and strong

• Maintain a healthy body weight

Testicular cancer exercise may be difficult for some people for up to a month or so after testicle removal surgery, because there is likely to be some pain in the area of treatment for a short while and it is advisable to wait until stitches have been removed. Some rest is required after major surgery, and your cancer doctor or GP can advise when you can start exercising again. At this time, you may want to build up to doing 30 minutes a day, 5 to 6 times a week. Exercise that increases blood flow and gets the heart pumping is good, as is more gentle, relaxing exercise such as yoga.

Read more about exercise after testicular cancer surgery.

Testicular cancer and employment

Many men with a testicular cancer diagnosis continue to work, although it is likely they will take time off for the diagnosis process and treatment, plus some recovery time. If treatment is successful, most men are able to return to work.

For more information on legal rights related to testicular cancer employment visit the Macmillan website.

Did you know... "Testicular cancer sometimes spreads to the lymph nodes or other organs."

Support for Testicular Cancer

Remember, you are not alone!

We hope this guide to testicular cancer has helped you understand more about the condition. Testicular cancer is not as common as some other male cancers, but men should be made more aware of how to check their testicles regularly in order to notice any potential testicular cancer symptoms at an early stage.

Some men find it difficult to talk to a GP about these symptoms, but early diagnosis of testicular cancer increases the risk of successful treatment, and many men are able to live cancer-free.

If you have a testicular cancer diagnosis, seeking support for testicular cancer may help you deal with your experiences, and here we list some testicular cancer support groups and websites that offer further information and advice.

Introduction

Communities

Cancer Research UK Forum – an online community for people to share their experiences of living with cancer

Testicular Cancer Awareness and Support Forum – a social media support group for anyone who is living with testicular cancer

Resources

Cancer Research UK – the leading cancer charity, providing information and advice about all types of cancer, treatments and research projects, as well as a nurse-run helpline

Macmillan Cancer Support – a leading UK charity supporting people with cancer of all types and at all stages, with lots of information about testicular cancer and how to live with it, a nurse-led helpline, forum and local support group network

NHS – source of official medical advice and information about testicular cancer symptoms, treatments and living with the condition

Orchid – a charity fighting male cancers, providing information about testicular cancer, as well as a national helpline

The Movember Foundation – a charity that raises awareness of male cancers, providing online information about how to spot symptoms of testicular and prostate cancers

Did you know... "Testicular cancer treatment usually involves removal of one or both testicles."

Glossary

Unsure what something means? Checkout our Glossary section below

Although we always try to explain things as simply and as clearly as possible, sometimes it’s necessary to use the correct medical terminology. Medical terms are often known for being tricky to pronounce and if you’re not an expert in the subject, they can also be a little difficult to understand. Below, we’ve put together a list of terms used on this page along with a brief explanation of what they mean to help make your understanding of testicular cancer as straightforward as possible.

Introduction

Benign

– a benign tumour is non-malignant/non-cancerous and will not spread to other areas of the body, but may still cause serious health problems depending on where in the body it is located and if it is interfering with any organs, nerves, blood supply, etc

Biopsy

– a medical procedure that examines human tissue to determine if it is cancerous

Cancer

– a disease of the body caused by abnormal cell growth which has potential to grow and spread around the body, interfering with normal bodily function and causing ill health or possibly even early death

Cells

– the building blocks of the body, involved in all biological aspects of life and keeping the human body functional

Chemotherapy

– medication treatment for cancer which aims to stop cancer cells developing and spreading

Hypospadias

– a condition which a baby is born with, affecting some males, where the urethra is in the wrong position and develops underneath the penis

Inguinal hernia

– a swelling or lump that commonly appears in the groin area and can be confused with symptoms of testicular cancer, which develops due to an internal part of the body e.g. the intestine, pushing through a weak spot of muscle in the affected area

Lymphoma

– cancer within the immune system cells

Mesothelioma

– cancer that develops inside the mesothelium, which is a layer that covers most organs, and which mostly occurs in the chest area

Scrotum

– the pouch of soft skin that houses the testicles

Sperm

– male reproductive cells which are made in the testicles

Testicles

– part of the male reproductive system which produce sperm and testosterone

Testosterone

– a male sex hormone produced by the testicles which supports sexual desire and helps regulate production of sperm, amongst other functions

Tumours

– abnormal cell growth in the body which can be cancerous or benign, or pre-cancerous with potential to spread


Last updated on 06/08/2019

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