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TESTICULAR CANCER

WHAT IS TESTICULAR CANCER?  Testicular cancer is a disease in which cancer develops in one or both testicles. It occurs when germ cells grow abnormally, forming a mass of cells called tumours that begin to invade normal tissues. Testicular cancer is not a common type of cancer. It can occur at any age, but most commonly between the ages of 15 and 45. Testicular cancer can metastasise, meaning that it can spread to other parts of the body through blood and lymph vessels, forming new tumours. Testicular cancer most often spreads to the abdomen, liver, lungs, bones and brain. If not detected early, cancerous tumours can grow rapidly and double in size within 10 to 30 days. It is fatal if left untreated. However, even when it spreads to other parts of the body, testicular cancer is generally very treatable. Treatment depends on the type of testicular cancer you have and how far it has spread. Common treatments include surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy. Testicular cancer is on the increase. Every year in Switzerland, there are around 470 new cases of testicular cancer.

RISK FACTORS

 

The following factors may increase the risk of testicular cancer:

  • an undescended testicle in the scrotum (testicular malposition) 

  • a history of testicular cancer

  • hereditary factors

SYMPTOMS Specific symptoms may include: • a swollen or enlarged testicle (usually painless) • a hardened area or nodule in the testicle (usually painless) • a feeling of tightness, tension or heaviness in the testicle or groin area • an area in the testicle that is sensitive to touch • swollen mammary glands (some testicular cancers secrete female hormones) Possible general symptoms: • fatigue, loss of vitality • lack of appetite, nausea • weight loss • backache • breathing difficulties IF YOU HAVE ANY SIGNS OR SYMPTOMS OF TESTICULAR CANCER, CONSULT A DOCTOR IMMEDIATELY.

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DIAGNOSIS How is testicular cancer diagnosed? History and physical examination The first step is for the doctor to take a full medical history and check for risk factors and symptoms. During the physical examination, the doctor will palpate the testicles to detect any signs of swelling or tenderness, as well as the size and location of any lumps. The doctor will also examine the abdomen for enlarged lymph nodes, a sign that the cancer has spread to the retroperitoneal lymph nodes. Ultrasound If a mass or nodule is present, the doctor will probably want to perform an ultrasound scan of the testicle to determine whether or not the mass is cancerous. Ultrasound uses sound waves to create 'echoes' of the internal organs. The shape of the reflected echoes can be used to distinguish a hydrocele from other benign masses. If the tumour is solid, it is most likely cancer. Blood tests Blood tests are often useful in diagnosing testicular tumours. Some testicular cancers secrete high levels of certain proteins, known as tumour markers.

TREATMENT Testicular cancer has a good chance of being cured, both in the early and advanced stages, when it has already metastasised. Surgery Once the diagnosis of cancer has been confirmed, the affected testicle is first removed by surgery (removal of the cancerous testicle = orchiectomy). The removed tumour is then sent to a laboratory for analysis. Chemotherapy Chemotherapy treatment uses powerful drugs to kill cancer cells, often after surgery. Chemotherapy spreads throughout the body and can destroy cancer cells that have spread beyond the testicle. Chemotherapy can cause your body to stop producing sperm. More commonly, however, sperm production resumes when you recover from your treatments. When the loss of sperm production is permanent, the collection and preservation of your sperm before chemotherapy should be considered.

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