- Although testicular cancer is relatively rare, it is the second most common cancer in men aged between 20 and 39
- The five-year survival rate for testicular cancer in Australia is 97%
- Testicular cancer typically forms in germ cells, which are cells that produce sperm. Germ cell tumours make up 95% of testicular cancers
Testicular cancer is a type of cancer that develops within one or both of the testicles.
There are two main types of testicular cancer:
Seminoma testicular cancer
This type of testicular cancer forms in germ cells and typically grows more slowly compared to non-seminoma testicular cancer. It is more likely to develop in men in their 40s.
In non-seminoma testicular cancer, the tumour contains at least one of the following subtypes: teratoma, choriocarcinoma, yolk sac tumour or embryonal carcinoma, or a mix of different cells. It develops more quickly than seminoma cancers. Non-seminoma testicular cancer is more common in men in their late teens and early 20s
As signs and symptoms for testicular cancer can be similar to other common conditions, it’s important to see your GP or healthcare professional if you experience any of the symptoms below. Discussing anything concerning with your doctor as soon as possible can help give you peace of mind and offer the best chance of successful treatment if you receive a testicular cancer diagnosis.
Symptoms may include:
A painless swelling or lump in testicle
Changes to the size or shape of a testicle
A feeling of heaviness in the scrotum
A dull ache, pain or discomfort in the lower abdomen, testicle or scrotum
Breast growth or tenderness
The TNM system is used to stage testicular cancer, and it helps doctors understand what your cancer looks like. The TNM stands for:
- Tumour – The degree to which the tumour has affected other tissue
- Node – Is a measure of whether lymph nodes have been affected
- Metastasis – The degree to which the cancer has spread to other organs of the body, such as the lungs
The TNM information, along with other tests, helps determine the stage of your testicular cancer using the guidelines below:
The cancer is confined to the testicle and has not grown into the epididymis, hilar soft tissue, or lymphatic/blood vessels. The tumour may have grown into the inner membrane surrounding the testicle (tunica albuginea), but not the outer membrane (tunica vaginalis). If the tumour is seminoma cancer, it is smaller than 3 cm. Tumour markers are normal.
The cancer has grown into the epididymis, hilar soft tissue, outer membrane (tunica vaginalis), lymphatic/blood vessels, spermatic cord or scrotum. Tumour markers are normal.
The cancer is confined to the testicle. However, one (or more) tumour markers levels are elevated. This often means that the cancer cells may have spread outside the testicle but have not spread to lymph nodes or distant areas of the body (that could be detected on scans).
The cancer has spread to no more than five nearby lymph nodes and none are larger than 2 cm. Tumour markers are normal or slightly elevated.
The cancer has spread to nearby lymph nodes and is between 2 cm and 5 cm in size. Tumour markers are normal or slightly high.
The cancer has spread to nearby lymph nodes and is larger than 5 cm. Tumour markers are normal or slightly high.
The cancer has spread to distant lymph nodes and/or the lungs. Tumour markers are normal or slightly high.
The cancer has spread to distant lymph nodes and/or the lungs but not to other organs. At least one tumour marker is substantially higher than normal.
The cancer has spread to distant lymph nodes and/or the lungs and at least one tumour marker is very high. Alternatively, the cancer has spread to distant areas of the body other than the lymph nodes or lungs.
The risk of developing testicular cancer is higher if an immediate family member has a history of testicular cancer. However, only 2% of all testicular cancer cases are hereditary.
The cause of testicular cancer is not fully known, however there are some factors which contribute to the risk of testicular cancer developing, including:
- Being born with an undescended or partially descended testicles
- Having a personal or family history of testicular cancer
- Pre-existing medical conditions such as HIV infection and AIDS
- Ethnicity/race – the risk for Caucasian men is significantly higher than other ethnicities
- Having hypospadias and/ or inguinal hernia
- Being infertile
Testicular cancer is rare, affecting only 1 in 184 Australian men. However, rates of testicular cancer have increased by over 50% in the last 30 years.
Despite being uncommon, testicular cancer is the second most common cancer for men aged between 20 and 39.
There is no known way to prevent testicular cancer. However, there are a number of lifestyle-related factors you can consider to reduce your risk of developing cancer overall, like:
- Getting regular exercise – Cancer Australia recommends at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise each day
- Eating a healthy, balanced diet – Eat a fibre-rich diet from grain and legume sources, as well as enjoy a variety of fruit (2 serves) and vegetables (5 serves) per day, limit your intake of salt, saturated fats, and avoid all processed meat
There are many different tests that are used to diagnose testicular cancer, alongside a physical examination. This may include an ultrasound to confirm the presence of a mass or a blood test to look at your general health and any tumour markers. Further tests may include CT, PET or MRI scans to detect if the cancer has spread. However, the only way to definitively diagnose testicular cancer is through the surgical removal of the affected testicle.
Icon offers clinical trials across a wide range of cancer types and treatments. If you would like more information on participating in a clinical trial, please speak with your doctor who will be able to find a trial that might be right for you and your cancer.
- Cancer Australia. (2020). Testicular cancer. Retrieved on 10 January 2022 at https://www.canceraustralia.gov.au/cancer-types/testicular-cancer/statistics
- Cancer Council Australia. (2020). Testicular cancer. Retrieved on 10 January 2022 at https://www.cancer.org.au/assets/pdf/understanding-testicular-cancer-booklet
- American Cancer Society. (2020). Testicular cancer. Retrieved on 10 January 2022 at https://www.cancer.org/cancer/testicular-cancer/
- American Society of Clinical Oncology. (2020). Testicular Cancer. Retrieved on 10 January 2022 at https://www.cancer.net/cancer-types/testicular-cancer/
- Department of Health, State Government of Victoria. (2021). Testicular cancer. Retrieved on 10 January 2022 at https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/ConditionsAndTreatments/testicular-cancer
- Cancer Research UK. (2021). Testicular cancer. Retrieved on 10 January 2022 at https://www.cancerresearchuk.org/about-cancer/testicular-cancer
- Healthy Male. (2018). Testicular Cancer. Retrieved on 10 January 2022 at https://www.healthymale.org.au/mens-health/testicular-cancer
- Health Direct. (2020). Testicular cancer. Retrieved on 10 January 2022 at https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/testicular-cancer
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