What is testicular cancer?
While testicular cancer is usually seen among young men, it is generally a rare type of cancer. There are around 2,200 diagnosed cases each year in the UK, meaning it makes up around 1% of all cancers that occur in men.
There are different types of testicular cancer:
- Pure seminoma testicular cancer
- Non seminoma testicular cancer
Pure seminoma testicular cancer means that there are no teratoma cells in the tumour, and makes up around 40-45% of all testicular cancers.
Most other testicular cancers are mixtures of different types of non seminoma:
- Embryonal carcinoma
- Yolk sac tumours
Lymphoma and mesothelioma are rare types of testicular cancer. Lymphoma can be found in a testicle, and mesothelioma starts in the cells that make up the covering layers of the body.
There are certain risk factors that can increase a man’s risk of developing testicular cancer. These include an undescended testicle and family history. If you have a close relative who has had testicular cancer or an undescended testicle, that may increase your risk of developing it.
While any kind of cancer can be serious and scary, testicular cancer is one of the most treatable types and has one of the highest survival rates. In England and Wales, one year survival rates following a diagnosis are 99%, and five year survival rates are 98%. Furthermore, in most cases men are cured and it is rare for the condition to return more than five years later.
Most cases require the surgical removal of the affected testicle – this is called orchidectomy or orchiectomy. It often doesn’t affect fertility or the ability to have sex.
Some men may require chemotherapy – this may be for men where the cancer has spread outside of the testicle. This works by using anti-cancer (cytotoxic) drugs to destroy cancer cells. This disrupts the growth of cancer cells as they circulate in the bloodstream. The chemotherapy that is required will depend on the individual and what the doctor treating him believes is needed. For example, it can be given as a regime over three or five days and on an inpatient or outpatient basis. Each treatment regime is a single cycle, and is given over three weeks, and either three or four cycles may be given depending on the disease.
Radiotherapy is less common in the treatment of testicular cancer, and that is because it is mainly used to kill cancer cells that have spread to lymph nodes.