Testicular cancer is one of the least common cancers, yet it’s the most common cancer in men between the ages of 15 and 44.
If caught at an early stage, testicular cancer is also one of the most treatable types…and one of the most curable. Almost all men with early stage testicular cancer will be completely cured, and even where the cancer has spread outside the testicles there’s an 80% chance of being cured.
There is a lot that is still unclear about testicular cancer, such as why it’s more common in white men than other ethnic groups, and why in the UK the number of cases per year has doubled since the mid-1970s.
What is Testicular Cancer?
Testicles (or testes) are the 2 smooth ‘eggs’ that hang in the loose bag of skin (the scrotum) under your penis. They are responsible for producing sperm and male hormones. Cancer is when your body’s cells grow and divide abnormally, rapidly dividing and creating new cells where they are not necessary. These new cells then form tumours. The cancer tumour generally only grows in and affects one testicle.
There is a possibility that testicular (or ball) cancer will spread to other parts of your body, with a tendency to first spread to the lymph nodes in the abdomen (which is called stage II cancer) and then further in your body to places like your lungs, brain, bones and liver (stage III). However, it’s not all bad: even stage III testicular cancer is generally responsive to chemotherapy.
In the unlikely event that you do have testicular cancer, the sooner treatment begins, the greater the likelihood you will be completely cured.
Unfortunately, boys and younger men often feel awkward talking about their genitals, so ‘ball cancer’ can be overlooked. All boys should get into the habit of scrotum self-examination from an early age, to be able to recognise when a change occurs.
Types of Testicular Cancer
Depending on the type of cells where the cancer first begins, there are two main subtypes, seminoma and non-seminoma.
Seminoma is a slower growing form of testicular cancer that tends to affect men between the ages of 30 and 40. It responds extremely well to radiation treatment and chemotherapy.
Nonseminoma is more common in younger men, and grows comparatively quickly. Nonseminomas respond to radiation therapy, but not quite as well as seminomas. However, even if the cancer has spread, chemotherapy can be very effective for nonseminomas
Less common types of testicular cancer include Leydig cell tumours and Sertoli cell tumours.