Testicular cancer — its mere mention is just as frightening as any other type of cancer. Fortunately however, it is not one of the 10 most common cancers found in Thai men. Rather, it is, in fact, quite rare, accounting for approximately only 2% of all cancers.
Testicular cancer is also classified as a less severe type of cancer and is known to be highly treatable, even when the cancer has spread beyond the testicles and into the bloodstream. Of course, this also depends on the type of cancer cells, the tumor size, age and overall health of the patient.
Testicular cancer has the same chance of occurrence in either the left, right or both testicles. However, it most often occurs in just one side. The highest incidence rates for the disease are found in those within the 15-35 year age range. Because of this, patients are often concerned about its effect on sexual functions, making it a cancer that has a huge emotional and mental impact on young men in particular.
If the testicular cancer has spread to other organs in the body, there may also be other symptoms:
Monthly testicular self-exams for men of reproductive age are important in order to notice changes in one’s testicles. A simple self-exam can play a part in catching this disease in its earliest stages. It’s best to do a self-exam when the testicles are in a relaxed state, such as just after a warm shower or bath.
Firstly, hold your penis out of the way. Then, examine one testicle at a time using both hands. Roll it between your thumb and fingers to see if there is any lump present or not.
Be aware, however, that it is considered normal for one testicle to be a different size or shape than the other or for one to hang lower than the other. There is also a soft, cordlike structure behind each testicle that collects and carries sperm. This is also normal and should not be mistaken for a suspicious lump.
Currently, there are still no clear, known causes for a number of different cancers, and testicular cancer is no exception to this. However, studies have found that there are a variety of possible risk factors, as follows:
Pathological examination for clear diagnosis of possible cancer and stage of the disease
In the diagnosis of testicular cancer, no biopsy will be performed. To do so, an incision must be made through the scrotum, and there is a small risk that this could cause cancer cells to spread to this area as well, which would result in treatment becoming more challenging and complicated.
Testicular cancer can be divided into three stages. Determining the stage of the cancer allows the physician to make the best possible treatment plan that will deliver the best possible results:
Stage 1: The cancer is only in the testicle and has not spread to the lymph nodes or other organs. There is a 90–100% cure rate for this stage.
Stage 2: The cancer has spread to the retroperitoneal lymph nodes in the back of the abdomen. This stage has an 80–90% cure rate.
Stage 3: The cancer has spread to the retroperitoneal lymph nodes, as well as in high levels into the blood. There is still a 50–70% cure rate for this stage of the cancer.
In rare cases, if the patient is chemotherapy- or radiation-resistant, this can result in a cure rate as low as 5-10%.
There may be some side effects to treatment for testicular cancer, particularly in patients who regularly smoke or drink alcohol, or in those with certain diseases, such as diabetes, high blood pressure or dyslipidemia, as well as in the elderly. Possible side effects can include:
Currently, there are no known methods for preventing or screening for testicular cancer before symptoms or signs have developed. Because of this, the best method is to perform regular self-examinations. If any lumps or abnormalities are found, you should immediately see a doctor for proper diagnosis and treatment. Taking good care of your health can also help reduce risk factors.
While testicular cancer is quite rare and is highly treatable compared to other types of cancers, any abnormalities of the male sexual organs can have a greater emotional impact than a physical effect.
M.D., Faculty of Medicine Mahidol University, 1999.