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The testicles (also called testes) are a pair of male sex glands that are in a sac-like pouch (the scrotum) under the penis. They produce and store sperm and also are the body’s main source of male hormones. These hormones control the development of the reproductive organs and male characteristics.
Testicular cancer occurs most often in younger men. It is the most-often diagnosed cancer in men between ages 20 and 34. However, it accounts for only 1% of all cancers that occur in men. When testicular cancer is detected early, there is a nearly 99% chance for successful treatment. Approximately 9,300 new cases of testicular cancer are diagnosed each year. The disease's five-year survival rate is more than 95%
Testicular Cancer Types
There are two basic types of testicular cancer, each with subtypes:
Germ cell tumors occur in the cells that produce sperm. Tumor types include:
- Seminomas, the type found most often, are responsible for half of testicular cancer cases. They are generally slow growing and responsive to treatment.
- Nonseminomas tend to grow and spread faster than seminomas. Tumor types include:
- Embryonal carcinoma (about 20% of testicular cancers)
- Yolk sac carcinoma (most often occurs in infants and young boys)
- Choriocarcinoma, a rare and extremely aggressive cancer
Stromal tumors occur in the testicular tissue where hormones are produced. Stromal tumor types include:
- Leydig cell tumors, which occur in cells that produce male sex hormones
- Sertoli cell tumors, which occur in cells that nourish germ cells
Testicular Cancer Risk Factors
Anything that increases your chance of getting testicular cancer is a risk factor. These include:
- Age: Most cases occur between the ages of 15 and 40, and testicular cancer is the type of cancer found most often in men ages 20 to 34.
- Race: White men are five to 10 times more likely to develop testicular cancer than men of other races.
- Family or personal history of testicular cancer
- Undescended testicle (cryptorchidism): Men with testicles that did not move down into the scrotum before birth are at increased risk. Men who had surgery to correct this condition are still at high risk of testicular cancer.
- Abnormal testicular development
- Klinefelter's syndrome: A sex chromosome disorder characterized by low levels of male hormones, sterility, breast enlargement, and small testes
- Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) or AIDS
- Previous treatment for testicular cancer
Not everyone with risk factors gets testicular cancer. However, if you have risk factors, it’s a good idea to discuss them with your doctor.
Research shows that many cancers can be prevented.
Learn more about testicular cancer:
In rare cases, testicular cancer can be passed down from one generation to the next. Genetic counseling may be right for you. Visit our genetic testing page to learn more.
Why choose MD Anderson for testicular cancer treatment?
At MD Anderson's Genitourinary Cancer Center, a team of experts targets each patient's testicular cancer, providing customized care to match your unique disease and circumstances. These highly focused physicians, as well as a specially trained support staff, personalize your care to ensure the most-advanced treatments with the least impact on your body.
As one of the nation's most active cancer centers, MD Anderson sees many more patients with testicular cancer than does the average oncologist. This translates to an extraordinary level of expertise, which can mean higher chances for successful treatment.
And at MD Anderson you're surrounded by the strength of one of the nation's largest and most experienced comprehensive cancer centers, which has all the support and wellness services needed to treat the whole person – not just the disease.
Knowledge and experience
Treatment for testicular cancer frequently requires surgery. Procedures, especially those to remove lymph glands, are delicate and require a high level of skill.
Our surgeons are among the most experienced in testicular cancer in the nation. They employ the latest techniques, which may mean less recovery time, fewer side effects, and faster healing for many patients. MD Anderson surgeons also have extensive experience in advanced nerve-sparing techniques.
If testicular cancer spreads, strong doses of chemotherapy may be needed. Our experienced oncologists take great care in selecting the best treatment for you. If a stem-cell transplant is necessary, MD Anderson offers one of the premier programs in the nation.
As one of the world's largest cancer research centers, MD Anderson is leading investigations into new methods of testicular cancer diagnosis and treatment. You benefit from the most advanced research, and we're able to offer clinical trials (research studies) of new therapies for testicular cancer.
From the moment my brother received his diagnosis, I promised I would fight for him.
Before I was diagnosed with testicular cancer at age 21 last year, I only did self-checks in the shower when I remembered to. That translated to about once every two or three months. I knew that the disease usually occurred in younger men, but I also thought I’d felt a lump a few years earlier, and it turned out to be normal.
The lump I found on my right testicle in February 2017 seemed pretty big to me, so it must have formed fairly quickly. I went to my local urologist to get it checked out.
My doctor told me the testicle needed to be removed, whether the lump was cancerous or not. He’s a family friend and someone I trust, so I let him perform the surgery in Beaumont two days later. He referred me to MD Anderson afterwards for additional treatment.
At the time, I only lived about five miles away from the Texas Medical Center. And MD Anderson is the best cancer hospital in the world, so I knew that was where I wanted to be.
Why I chose to bank my sperm
At MD Anderson, I met with Dr. Amishi Shah. She confirmed that the lump had been cancerous and provided an official diagnosis: I’d had a non-seminomatous germ cell tumor. Those form in the cells that produce sperm and are pretty fast-growing, so she recommended one cycle of BEP (a combination of bleomycin, etoposide and cisplatin) chemotherapy.
Just one dose of that regimen can make a man infertile for up to two years, so before I started treatment, I visited a sperm bank. I’m not ready for children yet, but I do want my own someday, so banking my sperm seemed like a no-brainer decision. Better to be safe than sorry, right?
My only lingering chemotherapy side effect
My chemotherapy had to be administered through an IV, so I stayed at MD Anderson for a week. I also stayed at home for another week after that, due to my weakened immune system. I lost all my hair as a result of the chemo, but it’s since grown back. And I have a couple of chemo burns that look like bruises on my arms and upper legs. But other than that, my testicular cancer treatment didn’t really affect my day-to-day life.
I’ve shown no evidence of disease since March 2017, so the only lingering side effect I really have now is anxiety. I worry a little bit every day that the cancer might come back. And I check myself a lot more frequently now than I used to, at least once or twice a month. Because I realize how lucky I was to catch the cancer early, before it had spread.
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