Testicular Cancer

Check Yourself

There are no routine testicular cancer screenings to detect signs of testicular cancer in men. The best way to prevent testicular cancer is to perform regular self-exams for testicular cancer, especially if you are at high risk. If you find any warning signs of testicular cancer, consult your doctor right away.

What is testicular cancer?

Like the name states, testicular cancer is cancer of the testicles, a part of the male reproductive system. Malignant cells form in the tissues of one or both testicles, almost always in germ cells – the cells that produce immature sperm. It often develops in younger men, although it can occur at any age. It is a highly treatable and curable type of cancer.

Facts and Statistics

  • In 2016, about 8,720 new cases of testicular cancer will be diagnosed and 380 men will die of the disease.
  • In a man’s lifetime the chance of developing cancer is 1 in 263.
  • The average age at the time of diagnosis is 33.
  • Testicular cancer is the most common cancer in men aged 15 to 34 years.
  • The five-year survival rate for testicular cancer is 95%.

Am I at risk?

The risk for testicular cancer is higher in younger men (ages 20-34), Caucasian men, men with undescended testicles, and men with a family or personal history of testes cancer. 

Risk Factors

The cause of testicular cancer is not known, but the following risk factors can increase a man’s chance of developing testicular cancer.

  • Age—Most testicular cancer cases occur in teens and younger men between the ages of 15 and 34. But, it can occur at any age, including children and senior males.
  • Undescended testicle (cryptorchidism)—Men who have undescended testicle(s) are more likely to get testicular cancer, often in the undescended testicle. This condition occurs when one or both of the testicles fail to move from the abdomen into the scrotum before birth. The risk may be reduced if surgery is performed to correct the condition before puberty.
  • Family history—If a man has the disease, there is an increased risk that one or more of his brothers or sons will also develop it. However, the risk is not as great as other cancer types, and only occurs in a small number of families.
  • HIV infection—There is evidence that shows men infected with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), particularly those with AIDS, are at increased risk.
  • Carcinoma in situ—This is a condition that does not cause a lump in the testicles or other symptoms. It isn’t clear how often this progresses into cancer, but is often discovered in men who have a testicular biopsy to evaluate infertility.
  • Personal history—A person who has had cancer in one testicle is at increased risk. About 3 to 4 percent of men who have been cured of cancer in one testicle will develop it in the second.
  • Race and ethnicity—The risk of testicular cancer among white men is about four to five times that of black men and more than three times that of Asian-Americans. The risk is highest for men living in the U.S. and Europe and lowest for men living in Africa or Asia. The reasons for this are unknown.

Signs and Symptoms

The symptoms of testicular cancer in men can include lumps, enlargement or swelling in the testicle, changes in the scrotum, pain and other physical signs. 

Warning Signs
  • Lump, swelling or changes in the testicle—One of the first signs of testicular cancer is a painless lump, enlargement or swelling in either testicle. A change in how a testicle feels (size, firmness) may also be a sign of testicular cancer.
  • Changes in the scrotum—A feeling of heaviness, pain or discomfort, or sudden build-up of fluid in the scrotum are testicular cancer symptoms that should be examined by a physician.
  • Pain or discomfort—Pain in a testicle or scrotum, or dull ache in the lower abdomen or groin, should be evaluated to rule out other causes. Pain can be caused by many other non-cancerous conditions, including injury or infection.
  • Breast growth or soreness—In rare cases, breasts may grow or become sore. This occurs when testicle tumors produce high levels of a hormone that stimulates breast development, called human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG).
  • Early signs of puberty in boys—Some tumors can produce male sex hormones. These may not cause any obvious symptoms in men, but in young boys they can cause signs of puberty at an abnormally early age, such as a deepened voice or growth of facial hair.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Testicular lumps are often found during a self-exam or by a doctor during a general physical exam. There are a variety of exams and tests to determine whether a lump is testicular cancer. Your doctor may perform physical exams, medical health history, ultrasound, biopsy or imaging scans to test for testicular cancer. 

Tests and Treatment Options
  • Ultrasound—This procedure uses sound waves to create an image of the testicles and scrotum. During an ultrasound you lie on your back with your legs spread. Your doctor then applies a clear gel to your scrotum. A hand-held probe is moved over your scrotum to make the ultrasound image. Solid lumps are more likely to be cancerous.
  • Tumor marker blood tests—Blood tests can help diagnose testicular cancer by looking for high levels of "tumor markers" unique to testicular cancer. Tumor markers for testicular cancer include: alpha-fetoprotein (AFP), beta human chorionic gonadotropin (beta-hCG), and lactase dehydrogenase (LDH). The marker type helps doctors tell what type of testicular cancer it may be.
  • Surgery (radical inguinal orchiectomy)—In this procedure, the entire testicle is removed through an incision in the groin. Tissue samples are taken and analyzed to determine the type of cancer.
  • Imaging tests—In addition to ultrasound, other imaging tests may be used to look inside your body to check the spread of cancer, whether treatment is working, and signs of additional cancer. Imaging tests include chest x-ray, CT, MRI, PET or bone scans.

Much progress has been made in the treatment of testicular cancer. After a testicular cancer diagnosis, your Community Cancer Care team will develop a treatment plan for you. The most common testicular cancer treatments include:

  • Surgery to remove the cancer and/or testicle infected (radical inguinal orchiectomy). This is the primary method to treat testicular cancer. In some cases of early stage cancer, this may be the only treatment needed.
  • Chemotherapy
  • Radiation therapy

Find out your options

Testicular cancer is highly curable. Call 800-777-7775 today to make an appointment for testicular cancer treatment at Community. Our certified MD Anderson Cancer Network® physicians will work with you to answer all your cancer questions.