The type of cancer that affected the male sex organs, particularly the male gonads called the testes, was regarded as an incurable condition back in the 70s. Since then, advanced diagnostic tools, exceptional treatment methods, and refined therapies have elevated testicular cancer to the status of a disease that is most curable.
The interdisciplinary approach involved many specialists, and progress has been so dramatic that nearly all patients diagnosed with first stage testicular cancer got cured and survived the disease. There was a substantially high survival rate of 98 percent even after cancer has invaded the lymphatic ducts and spread to other areas of the body.
An Early Detection Boosts Survival Rates in Testicular Cancer
Getting an early diagnosis is the key to help men with testicular cancer assess and identify their best treatment options. An early detection is possible through the simple act of self-examining the testes using one’s hands, feeling for lumps and surface irregularities that may raise suspicions of cancer.
Several factors such as the individual’s medical history, the family’s inclination to cancer, existing physical issues affecting the male reproductive system, and the stage at which cancer is discovered, play important roles in deciding the kind of specialist one needs and the treatment options available.
Chemotherapy and Radiation in Testicular Cancer
The singular reason for the positive response of testicular cancer to modern treatment options is the sensitivity of the testicular germ cell to chemotherapy drugs. The bleomycin, etoposide, and cisplatinum (BEP) drug therapy has revolutionized cancer treatment and made it possible to counter fast-growing cancer cells. Chemotherapy strikes at the root of testicular cancer on its earliest stages before its transmission through the lymph nodes, which further complicates other health issues.
The Kinds of Specialized Cancer Care and Cure
- Surgery - involves the removal of the deviant testicle through a small incision made in the groin.
- Chemotherapy - involves the administration of titrated doses of a combination of three powerful drugs called bleomycin, etoposide, and cisplatinum (BEP). These drugs target and destroy cancer cells, which prevent tumors from growing and spreading.
- Radiation - is a therapy that helps shrink tumors using powerful pulses of gamma radiation.
- Stem Cell Replacement - is a type of cancer treatment that helps in the restoration of the diseased bone marrow tissue, making them capable of manufacturing healthy red blood cells, white blood cells, and blood platelets.
- Advanced Chemotherapy Options - are done when testicular cancer reappears, especially after a previous operation and when the removal of the other testicle proves ineffective. These advanced chemotherapy options involve the administration of higher than average strength of chemo drugs to aggressively prevent cancer from striking elsewhere in the body.
The Interdisciplinary Team for Testicular Cancer
Testicular cancer can be detected at any stage. The extent of progress of the tumor on each stage of testicular cancer determines the treatment options and corresponding specialists. Fortunately, this form of cancer is being handled by a panel of specialists, who are experts in specific areas. They all help in determining how the disease can be successfully treated. This group of specialists is called the "multidisciplinary team," which systematically guides a patient through skillful investigations, knowledgeable diagnosis, and result-oriented treatments.
The Specialists Who Handle Different Testicular Cancer Treatments
Family Doctor or General Practitioner (GP)
this type of doctors will be the first medical practitioners who you can consult about your health issues, including testicular cancer. They will probe your family background and personal history and perform a simple clinical examination to see firsthand whether existing symptoms and supporting medical profile raise suspicions of cancer. If cancer is suspected, they will refer you to a urologist.
A urologist is an expert in diseases that affect the urinary system and genital organs of the male and female reproductive system. Diagnostic imaging will be a urologist's first option, and he or she will probably rely on an ultrasound scan to get an initial glimpse of the softer inner tissues of the testes that could reveal the contours of a growing cancerous tumor. A more detailed analysis involves using either a CT and MRI scan, which will give a clearer picture of the tumor. The urologist will also rely on tests that examine tumor markers in the blood to confirm testicular cancer.
Where diagnosis is inconclusive, and symptoms are causing serious discomfort, the urologist may decide to perform an inguinal orchiectomy (removal of testes through a groin incision) to obtain a tissue sample of the affected area (biopsy) and ask a histopathologist for an opinion. If the laboratory tests indicate testicular cancer, the surgeon goes ahead and removes the testes. If cancer is not indicated, the testes are reinserted in the scrotum.
Biopsies usually follow orchiectomies and are rarely performed directly through the scrotal skin folds because of the risk of triggering a cancer invasion in the lymph and circulatory system.
Sometimes, investigative imaging may not yield desirable results. Moreover, it becomes difficult to confirm the diagnosis of cancer without directly examining a testicular tissue sample. A histopathologist specializes in examining tissue samples under the microscope to note the cell changes that indicate cancer. The doctor's diagnosis will both confirm and classify cancer according to its stage of growth, which provides valuable information to the urologist for strategizing corrective solutions.
Unlike other types of cancer, a testicular cancer diagnosis almost always prompts the immediate removal of the testicle because it is located outside the body and is easily accessible. The removal of the testes prevents cancer from affecting other tissues and organs through the lymphatic and circulatory system. For this reason, chemotherapy always follows surgery in testicular cancer. A medical oncologist is a doctor who specializes in the administration of powerful chemo drugs that fight cancer.
A radiation oncologist is a type of doctor who has expertise in treating cancer through radiation therapy. This type of doctor basically employs two types of radiation:
- Radiation from an external source - focuses gamma rays or X-rays on tumors to shrink or directly kill cancerous cells.
- Systemic radiation therapy - injects radioactively labeled substances into the bloodstream to target tumors that are growing within the tissues.
The immediate aftermath of surgery will be hormonal imbalances created by the absence of the primary organ-producing testosterone – the testes. The reduction in testosterone triggers the loss of libido and sex drive, as well as a gradual weakening of bones, and depletion of energy levels. An endocrinologist is a doctor who specializes in hormone replacement therapy (HRT).
Pain and Palliative Care Specialists
These are professionals entrusted with the task of managing pain-related symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, and tiredness. They are not responsible for curing the disease but they make it possible for patients to undergo the procedures with minimum discomfort. Their services are availed in clinics, hospitals, and homes.
Psychologists, Psychiatric Specialists, and Counselors
These healthcare professionals are the ones who specialize in mental disorders and psychological therapies. They need not be practicing doctors. Testicular cancer treatment creates considerable anxiety among men regarding the consequences of losing libido, sexual drive, loss of body image, and a possible decline in their erectile performance. Professional counselors help erase the patients’ anxieties, clear their doubts, and explain the procedures in detail, creating more confidence in the recovery and recuperation process.
The Bottom Line
A multidisciplinary approach helps strategize investigations, diagnosis, and treatment options for testicular cancer, keeping patients informed of the advantages of various procedures. It avoids unnecessary delay in accessing the advancements of testicular cancer treatments. It also ensures that the patient’s health improves in stages, particularly in a coordinated and planned manner.
- Testicular cancer can be detected at any stage.
- The extent of progress of the tumor on each stage of testicular cancer determines the treatment options and corresponding specialists.
- A "multidisciplinary team" systematically guides a patient through skillful investigations, knowledgeable diagnosis, and result-oriented treatments.