Testicular Cancer Information

What is Testicular Cancer?

Cancer of the testicle (also called the testis), a rare kind of cancer in men, is a disease in which cancer (malignant) cells are found in the tissues of one or both testicles. Sperm (the male germ cells that can join with a female egg to develop into a baby) and male hormones are made in the testicles. There are two testicles located inside of the scrotum (a sac of loose skin that lies directly under the penis). The testicles are similar to the ovaries in women (the small sacs that hold the female egg cells).

Testicular cancer is the most common cancer in men 15 to 35 years old. Men who have an undescended testicle (a testicle that has never moved down into the scrotum) are at higher risk of developing cancer of the testicle than other men whose testicles have moved down into the scrotum. This is true even if surgery has been done to place the testicle in the appropriate place in the scrotum.

Testicular cancer can be broadly classified into two types: seminoma and nonseminoma. Seminomas make up about 30 percent of all testicular cancers. Nonseminomas are a group of cancers that include choriocarcinoma, embryonal carcinoma, teratoma, and yolk sac tumors. A testicular cancer may have a combination of both types.

An estimated 7,400 men in the United States will be diagnosed with testicular cancer in 1999. Although testicular cancer accounts for only 1 percent of all cancers in men, it is the most common form of cancer in young men between the ages of 15 and 35. Any man can get testicular cancer, but it is more common in white men than in black men.

A doctor should be seen if there is any swelling in the scrotum. The doctor will examine the testicles and feel for any lumps. If the scrotum doesn't feel normal, the doctor may need to do an ultrasound examination, which uses sound waves to make a picture of the inside of the testes. The doctor may need to cut out the testicle and look at it under a microscope to see if there are any cancer cells. It is very important that this be done correctly.

The chance of recovery (prognosis) and choice of testicular cancer treatment depend on the stage of the cancer (whether it is just in the testicle or has spread to other places) and the patient's general state of health.

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