Testicular Cancer Treatment
In this Article:
Self-Exam, Tests and Diagnosis
Treatment typically begins with radical orchiectomy. This surgical procedure literally removes the tumors and affected tissue from the testes and any other areas it may have spread to. For men, this often means losing one testicle.
It does not, however, mean the loss of sexual function. At least if you only lose one. The primary risk in this regard involves the procedure itself. If the surgeon has to remove lymph glands found near the abdomen, he risks damaging the nerves associated with ejaculation. This can lead to infertility.
While there are a number of treatments, the two most common for all cancers are:
• Radiation therapy. An effective treatment against seminomas, radiation can wipe out the cancer from the body or shrink tumors that can not be removed through surgery.
• Chemotherapy. Anti-cancer drugs are pumped into the body if surgery can not fully remove the tumor or it has metastasized to other areas of the body. Keep in mind that chemotherapy can damage the function of the testes and even lead to infertility. If you have hopes for children in the future, you can begin depositing sperm in a sperm bank before you begin chemotherapy.
Ideally, the appropriate treatment(s) drives the cancer into remission and it is never heard from again. Unfortunately this is not always the case with cancer, and testicular cancer is no different. In fact, relapse is most common during the first two years following remission, and on average about ten percent of patients will have a relapse.
Because of this cancer’s high survival rate when found early, follow-up care is extremely important. Doctors typically will schedule their patients for physical exams and lab work such as blood draws or CT scans to make certain that, should the cancer return, they will have caught it early enough.
Another aspect of follow-up care is a cosmetic concern. Men who lose a testicle and dislike how their body looks without it can have an artificial testicle implanted in their scrotum.
Testicles develop in the abdomen of a male fetus, and prior to birth they descend into the scrotum. But for some boys—often those born prematurely—one or both testicles won’t descend prior to birth; rather, they will do so within the first nine months following birth.
Why do this happen? Most cases are unexplainable, although the American Academy of Pediatrics suggests a number of factors:
• The mother may not be providing enough of certain hormones which would otherwise stimulate the testes to mature and descend;
• The problem isn’t the hormone, it’s the testes; perhaps they are having dysfunctional response to the hormones;
• There is a basic blockage;
• It is also possible that the mother took hormonal medications while pregnant, throwing off the balance.
The scrotum of a child with two undescended testicles appears small and somewhat undeveloped. If just one descended, it will be evident in the scrotum. Also, it’s possible that at times the testicles will be in the scrotum and not at other times. This is known as “retractile” and it tends to correct itself in time.
During standard examination, a physician should check to see that the boy’s testes are developing properly and that both have descended. Testicles still undescended after two years present some potential problems. The risk of testicular cancer goes up, as does the risk of infertility, but the good news there are treatments available. Hormone injections are typically the first treatment route, and patients tend to benefit from hormones the most when the testes are at least lower than they could be. The surgical procedure is called orchiopexy; doctors manually descend the testes, then sew them down inside the scrotum so they can still function just fine without causing any more foreseeable trouble.