Cancer of the testicles is the most common cancer among young men between the ages of 15 and 35, but it can affect any age group. It can be discovered by accident or through self-examination.
While there are 14 types of cancers that originate in the testicles, most begin with the germ cells, where new sperm cells are produced. Such types of testicular cancer fall into two categories:
Seminoma cancer: This is primarily made up of young germ cells, grows slowly and stays relatively immobile. Seminomas account for 40% of testicular cancers.
Non- seminoma cancer: Arising from more mature germ cells, non-seminomas tend to be more aggressive than seminomas. They are also combinations of different cancers in the testes.
The causes of testicular cancer remain a mystery to this day. It strikes young men randomly; though some risk factors have been identified, a specific source has yet to be found.
Thankfully, most testicular cancers can be cured if treated early. And early treatment can be guaranteed by performing a monthly self-exam.
Symptoms of testicular cancer
There are three stages of testicular cancer. A series of tests and scans are required to determine which stage a man is in.
In the first, it remains confined to the testes.
If it progresses, it moves to the retroperitoneal lymph nodes -- little glands that filter bacteria -- and cancer cells form in the lymphatic fluids located between the diaphragm and the kidneys, near the back.
In its final stage, it spreads throughout the body, potentially to the lungs, brain, liver, and bones. If the cancer is aggressive and left untreated, it can lead to death. 95% of testicular cancers are malignant and spread if untreated.
Testicular cancer can produce any of the following symptoms. It should be noted that these symptoms can also be caused by other harmless conditions, so a urologist's opinion is strongly advised:
Perform a self- exam
The best way to detect testicular cancer early on is through monthly self-exams, which every man should perform from the age of 15 on. It's simple, fast and painless. The more you do it, the more familiar you'll be with the normal size and texture of your testicles, and thus be better able to detect any abnormalities. Here's what you should do:
Treatment for testicular cancer
There is little a man can do to prevent the onset of testicular cancer, but detecting it early is the best way to cure it. And the good news is that it is almost always curable.
There are four main treatments: surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and surveillance.
Surgery is the most common, wherein the affected testicle is removed through the groin, a procedure called inguinal orchiectomy. Sometimes it's necessary to remove the lymph nodes in the abdomen if the cancer has reached the second stage, and other tissues if in the third.
Radiation therapy involves the localized application of high-energy rays to destroy cancer cells. Seminomas are highly sensitive to radiation and die promptly. Non-seminomas are much more resistant, so radiation therapy is rarely used on them.
Chemotherapy is the chemical treatment of cancer. This procedure is used more often when the cancer has spread to the body. Drugs are injected periodically and the patient's progress monitored. Cisplatin is widely seen as the perfect testicular cancer drug, curing about 92% of cases.
Although testicular cancer is rare, it selects its victims semi-randomly. A man should do his monthly self-checks religiously, especially if he falls in the risk groups. And since the disease is highly curable, there's no reason not to get it checked right away. Lance Armstrong is living proof that testicular cancer can be treated.