Testicular cancer is found to affect the maximum number of men between 15-34 years of age. Although the cancer is easily detectable and highly curable, testicular cancer poses a risk of its own among the male population.
What is Testicular cancer
Testicular cancer is the cancerous overgrowth of tissues within the testicles of a man. The testicles are the major part of the male reproductive system and are located one on either side of the scrotum. They produce sperm cells and the male hormone-testosterone. The testicles are connected via the vas deferentia that carry the sperms, mixed with seminal fluid from the prostrate, out of the body through the penis.
The testicles are made up of different types of cells. Cancer may affect any of the type and hence this determines the classification and thereafter the treatment of the specific type of Testicular cancer.
Usually one or both the testicles might be affected. Although testicular cancer is not seen to spread much in the body, metastasis to the lungs is sometimes seen.
Types of Testicular cancer
More than 90% of testicular cancers develop within the Germ cells of the testicles. These germ cells produce the sperms. There are two types of germ cell tumors:-
- Seminoma--- this can be differentiated into Classical and Spermatocytic seminoma under the microscope on examination. Among these two subtypes, Classical seminoma is the most common.
- Non-seminoma—these usually affect younger man below 30 years of age. These can be further sub-classified into the following types:-
- Embryonal carcinoma
- Yolk sac carcinoma
Other types of Testicular cancer include Stromal tumors and secondary cancers (that have spread to the testicles from some other affected part of the body).
Symptoms of Testicular cancer
Testicular cancer is easily detectable on regular self-examinations and health check ups. Often a testicular cancer initiates with a lump in the scrotal region. Salient symptoms include the following:-
- A painful or non-painful lump or tumour on one or both side of the testicles.
- Dull ache across the lower abdomen that persists.
- A feeling of heaviness in the scrotal region
- Lower back pain
- Enlargement of the breasts known as Gynaecomastia is seen in some cases. This usually occurs due to the increase in the levels of the hormone Beta-HCG that is produced by the tumor cells.
- A sudden collection of fluid around the testicles in the scrotal region may be seen.
- Pain might be elicited on touching the testicles in the scrotal region.
- Other symptoms like coughing up of blood, shortness of breath and chest pain might be seen in cases where the cancer has spread to the lungs.
- A lump in the neck might be found on observation owing to the spread of cancer via the lymph nodes in that area.
If any of these symptoms persist for more than two weeks, it is advisable to visit a doctor for further consultation.
Risk factors of Testicular cancer
A number of factors in the medical history of a patient are important posing a risk of occurrence of testicular cancer. The important ones being:-
- Genetic diseases like Klinefelter’s syndrome increases the chances of abnormal testicular development and hence testicular cancer in the future.
- Men with un-descended testicles are also at a higher risk of developing testicular cancer as compared to their counterparts. It is observed that the risk continues even after the surgical relocation of the testicles into the scrotal sac.
- Men with a family history of testicular cancer are at an increased risk.
- Testicular cancer usually occurs between the age group of 15-34 and is rare in older men.
- Testicular cancer is more often found among the white Caucasians as compared to their black counterparts.