Testicular cancer occurs when cells in the testicles grow out of control and form tumors. The testicles are made up of several types of cells, each of which can develop into different types of testicular cancer.
Testicular Cancer Overview and Symptoms
Types of testicular cancer:
- Germ cell tumors – about 90% of testicular cancer cases are germ cell tumors, meaning they developed in the germ cells, the cells that make sperm. Germ cell tumors can be seminomas, which usually grow and spread more slowly, or non-seminomas.
- Stromal tumors – sometimes called gonadal stromal tumors, these develop in the supportive and hormone-producing tissues in the testicle, called the stroma.
- Secondary testicular cancers – these are cancers that start in another organ and spread to the testicle. They are not true testicular cancer – they are named and receive treatment based on the part of the body where they started.
Testicular cancer typically occurs in young men; the average age at diagnosis is 33, although it can affect teenage boys and sometimes affects men over age 50. Testicular cancer has a high 5-year survival rate – 99% of patients with localized disease survive, 96% with regional disease (meaning it has spread to nearby lymph nodes or tissues) survive, and 73% with distant disease (meaning it has spread to organs beyond the testicles or lymph nodes) survive.
Testicular diagnosis may involve:
- Physical exam
- Diagnostic imaging for the evaluation and staging of your disease, such as a PET/CT scan. The PET/CT hybrid scanner is a state-of-the-art diagnostic imaging system that provides more precise information and localization for many cancers; and does it quicker than conventional PET imaging.
- Biopsy – the removal of a tissue sample of the tumor. Doctors can then tell what type of testicular cancer you have by looking at the cells under a microscope. Usually biopsy procedures are not carried out at the initial visit, but arranged for a later date, once we have gathered your other information and imaging.
- Blood tests – Some types of testicular cancer can increase blood levels of a protein called human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG). HCG can be detected by a simple blood test and is considered a tumor marker for certain types of testicular cancer. It can be used for diagnosis and to check how you respond to treatment.
At BIDMC, we review all of your information with the genitourinary cancer team during our weekly multidisciplinary conference. Our radiologists report on your imaging studies and our pathologists review the results of your biopsy. Urologists, oncologists, and radiation oncologists voice their opinions. Together as a team focused solely on you, we reach agreement on the best treatment options for your particular situation.
Depending on the type and stage of your cancer and other factors, testicular cancer treatment can include:
- Radiation therapy
- Chemotherapy (chemo)
- High-dose chemotherapy and stem cell transplant
More than one of type of treatment might be used.
Learn MorePatients with testicular cancer are treated through the Genitourinary Cancer Program, where leading oncologists, surgeons, radiation oncologists, radiologists, and pathologists provide state-of-the-art diagnosis and treatment.