What do seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong, comedic actor Tom Green and Olympic figure skater Scott Hamilton have in common? Besides legions of fans and a penchant for being in the spotlight, they have all survived diagnosis and treatment for testicular cancer. These three – and countless other men – were diagnosed in the early stages and were able to go on living healthy, productive and influential lives. Most importantly, they have become advocates for cancer awareness and early diagnosis. If you are diagnosed with testicular cancer, working with your urologist to develop a treatment plan is your first step on the road to recovery. Here’s what you need to know about testicular cancer, and how to treat it.
What is testicular cancer?
Testicular cancer is the most common cancer in males, aged 15 through 44. Like all cancers, testicular cancer is the result of cells behaving abnormally. With testicular cancer, abnormal cells start to grow and spread, developing into a malignant tumor that can metastasize to other parts of the body. Nearly all testicular cancers are germ cell tumors; germ cells are the cells in the testicles responsible for manufacturing sperm and testosterone. Treatment depends on the stage of cancer and how far it has spread.
Symptoms of Testicular Cancer
The most common sign of testicular cancer is a painless lump or consistent swelling within the testicles. Men may also notice a change in how their testicles feel or look, accompanied by pain or discomfort in the testicles or scrotum. Some men complain of dull pain in the groin or lower abdomen; they may also notice a build-up of fluid in the scrotum. Other symptoms may include trouble swallowing, coughing, swelling in the chest or chest pain, and enlarged or swollen breasts and/or lymph nodes. In more advanced stages, there may be shortness of breath, and a build-up of fluid in the lungs or abdomen. There may also be unexplained weight loss and difficulty conceiving.
Diagnosing Testicular Cancer
The first step to diagnosing testicular cancer is conducting self-exams of the testicles, looking for any uncharacteristic lumps, bumps, nodules or swelling. If you have a family history of testicular cancer, have an undescended testicle, or any of the above-listed symptoms, contact your urologist right away. Your urologist will likely order an ultrasound of the area, take a biopsy, and perform lab tests to determine whether certain “tumor markers” are present in the blood. If testicular cancer is confirmed, your urologist will work with you to develop a treatment plan.
Treatment of Testicular Cancer
The objective of treatment for testicular cancer is to remove or eradicate cancer, then ensure it doesn’t return. The most common treatment for testicular cancer is surgery to remove the entire tumor, often with the testicle and spermatic cord to prevent the spread of blood and lymph vessels that serve as transport of the cancerous cells to other parts of the body. Many doctors prescribe post-operative chemo or radiation therapy to destroy any remaining cancer cells or to slow their growth. Ultimately, your treatment plan will depend on the stage of cancer – meaning early detection is paramount.
Early Detection and Treatment in Mesa and Gilbert
If you regularly conduct self-exams for testicular cancer, congratulations! Early detection and treatment, especially if the cancer is confined to the testes, means your five-year survival rate is as high as 99 percent. Plus, the earlier the cancer is detected, the less aggressive and widespread your treatment needs to be. Perhaps now is a good time to develop a lifelong relationship with a urologist. If you live in or around Mesa or Gilbert, look no further than Urologic Surgeons of Arizona, where renown urologists Dr. Kashif Alvi and Dr. Robert Shahon and their staff offer complete, comprehensive and compassionate care for patients with cancer as well as those seeking general urological care. Seeking a lifetime of urological health? Our experts will help you understand how to take control of your urological health, and treat any concerns you or your family have. Call Urologic Surgeons of Arizona today at (480) 409-5060, or request an appointment online.