Testicles are male reproduction glands which produce and store sperm, being the main source of testosterone as well. These hormones are in control of reproductive organs and other male physical characteristics. Testicles are positioned below the penis in a bag called scrotum. Cancer of the testicles is also referred to as testicular cancer and this is a disease in which cells of the testicles in one or both of them become malicious. Based on the characteristic of these new tumor cells, we have seminoma and non-seminoma testicular cancer. Other types exist but are extremely rare. Seminoma can be one of the following – classic, anaplastic and spermatocytes. Testicular cancer surrounds only 1% of all cancer types with men in the USA. Every year about 8000 men get diagnosed with this cancer and about 400 die from the consequences.
An exact cause of testicular cancer is yet to be revealed, however – studies have determined a couple of factors which are improving the risk to get diagnosed with this cancer:
- Undescended testicle (cryptorchidism) – normally, testicles descend from the abdomen into the scrotum before birth. Risk of testicular cancer is much higher with men whose testicle(s) didn’t descend. Risk remains equal, even if the testicle was surgically descended into its position.
- Congenital abnormalities – men born with testicular abnormalities or abnormalities on the penis, kidneys as well as those with inguinal hernia carry a higher risk.
- Earlier testicular cancer – men who have already overcome testicular cancer are also carrying a higher risk of getting the cancer on the other testicle.
- Family history of testicular cancer – testicular cancer risk is bigger with those men whose brother or father already had it.
Even though the frequency of testicular cancer has increased over the last couple of years, over 95% of cancer cases are treatable. There are higher chances for the treatment to accomplish complete success if the cancer is discovered in its early stage. Besides, treatment can also be less aggressive, which means it won’t cause as much side effects.
Most men with testicular cancer can be treated via surgery, radiation therapy or chemotherapy. Side effects depend on the treatment type and can vary a lot from person to person. Seminoma and non-seminoma grow and spread in different ways so they need to be treated accordingly as well. Non-seminoma usually grow and expand faster while seminoma are highly sensitive towards radiation. If the tumor contains both cancer types, it is treated as non-seminoma. Treatment can also depend on the phase of the disease, age of the patient and overall health condition of the patient, along with other factors. Treatment is usually done by a team of specialists, which can include a surgeon, medical oncologist and an oncologist – radiologist.
Men who experience recurrent disease need to take testicular cancer treatment which is done by chemotherapy in high dosages. This will destroy cancer cells but they also destroy the bone marrow in which they are created. Such a treatment can be done only with patients who will have bone marrow transplantation. During the process, mother cells of the bone marrow are taken from the patients before chemotherapy begins.