Testicular cancer is a disease in which malignant (cancer) cells form in the tissues of one or both testicles. The testicles are 2 egg-shaped glands located inside the scrotum. The testicles are held within the scrotum by the spermatic cord, which also contains the vas deferens and vessels and nerves of the testicles. The testicles are the male sex glands and produce testosterone and sperm. Germ cells within the testicles produce immature sperm that travel through a network of tubules (tiny tubes) and larger tubes into the epididymis (a long coiled tube next to the testicles) where the sperm mature and are stored. Almost all testicular cancers start in the germ cells. Testicular cancer is the most common cancer in men 20 to 35 years old.
Signs and symptoms of testicular cancer include:
- A lump or enlargement in either testicle
- A feeling of heaviness in the scrotum
- A sudden collection of fluid in the scrotum
- Pain or discomfort in a testicle or the scrotum
- Enlargement or tenderness of the breasts
Types of cancer
Your extracted testicle will be analyzed to determine the type of testicular cancer. The type of testicular cancer you have determines your treatment and your prognosis. In general, there are two types of testicular cancer:
Seminoma. Seminoma tumors occur in all age groups, but if an older man develops testicular cancer, it is more likely to be seminoma. Seminomas, in general, aren't as aggressive as nonseminomas.
Nonseminoma. Nonseminoma tumors tend to develop earlier in life and grow and spread rapidly. Several different types of nonseminoma tumors exist, including choriocarcinoma, embryonal carcinoma, teratoma and yolk sac tumor.
It's not clear what causes testicular cancer in most cases. Doctors know that testicular cancer occurs when healthy cells in a testicle become altered. Healthy cells grow and divide in an orderly way to keep your body functioning normally. But sometimes some cells develop abnormalities, causing this growth to get out of control — these cancer cells continue dividing even when new cells aren't needed. The accumulating cells form a mass in the testicle. Nearly all testicular cancers begin in the germ cells — the cells in the testicles that produce immature sperm. What causes germ cells to become abnormal and develop into cancer isn't known.
Different types of treatments are available for patients with testicular cancer. Some treatments are standard and some are being tested in clinical trials. A treatment clinical trial is a research study meant to help improve current treatments or obtain information on new treatments for patients with cancer. When clinical trials show that a new treatment is better than the standard treatment, the new treatment may become the standard treatment. Patients may want to think about taking part in a clinical trial.
In the past, metastatic testicular cancer was usually fatal, but advances in treatment, including high-dose chemotherapy and stem cell rescue, have considerably improved the prognosis. Indeed, testicular cancer is a bright spot in the oncological landscape and is now considered the model for the treatment of solid tumors.