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How common is testicular cancer?
Testicular cancer is the most common form of cancer in young men, mostly between the ages of 15 and 45. Incidence has increased four-fold over the last fifty years, with about 2,000 cases a year in the UK.
What causes testicular cancer? Is there anything I can do to reduce the risk of developing it?
We are still investigating the causes of testicular cancer and do not know of any treatments that could prevent it. The most important thing is to check your testicles regularly to detect any changes in their shape or size. The most significant risk factor is undescended testis at birth with 10% of patients having a history of this condition. Testicular cancer can have a strong genetic component, with brothers, fathers or sons of testicular cancer patients having up to a 10-fold increased risk of developing the disease.
How is testicular cancer diagnosed?
Testicular cancer can be diagnosed through regular self-checking of the normal size and shape of your testicles. When these have altered in some way, it is important to consult with your doctor. Please note that most lumps are benign (non-cancerous) and no operation is necessary.
How is testicular cancer treated?
Testicular cancer can be treated by surgery, by radiotherapy or by chemotherapy. In some cases these treatments are combined. The most straightforward and safest way of dealing with a cancerous lump is to remove the testicle.
Can a man diagnosed with testicular cancer make a full recovery?99% of testicular cancers can be cured if caught at an early stage. Even when the tumour spreads, the cure rate is very high. Treatment may be very intensive, but most patients cured will have no long-term side effects from treatment. A small proportion of patients will become infertile after chemotherapy treatment. Other side effects of treatment are uncommon but may include damage to the nerve endings, hearing and poor circulation. There may be a slightly increased risk of developing other cancers. The risks of these problems are lessened if the cancer is treated early.
Will the operation affect my sex drive and will I still be able to father children?
Once you have recovered from the immediate effects of the operation (it can be sore for a few days afterwards) you should be able to have sex as normal. In most circumstances, one testicle is sufficient to produce sperm to father children. If additional treatment is required following surgery, your fertility can be affected and you will always be offered sperm banking before this treatment commences. Being diagnosed with cancer can be stressful and this can affect the level of performance for some men. If this is the case, please consult with your doctor.
How will it look, after the operation?
Following the surgery you may not look very different to how you were before the operation especially if you have a prosthetic testicle inserted. You will have a small scar in your groin, although the scrotal area itself will be little changed.
Will I lose my masculinity?
This is a common worry for men with testicular cancer. Masculinity is due to the testosterone hormone that is produced by the testicles. In the majority of men one testicle can produce enough testosterone to support your masculinity. Occasionally if the remaining testicle has been damaged, your doctor can recommend replacement testosterone therapy to maintain this aspect of your life.
How do I carry out a self-examination?
We recommend this is done after a warm shower or bath when the scrotal skin relaxes. Support the scrotum in the palm of your hand and become familiar with the size and weight of each testicle. Examine each testicle by rolling it between your fingers and thumb. Gently feel for lumps, swellings, or changes in firmness. Remember each testicle has an epididymis at the top which carries sperm to the penis. Don’t panic if you feel this – it’s normal.