A second study reported that among 494 patients with stage I germ cell tumors who subsequently relapsed, 125 had an elevated LDH at the time of relapse. Of these 125, all had other evidence of relapse: 112 had a concurrent rise in AFP and/or hCG, one had CT evidence of relapse prior to the elevation in LDH, one had palpable disease on examination and one complained of back pain that led to imaging that revealed retroperitoneal relapse. Measuring LDH thus appears to have little value during surveillance of germ cell tumors for relapse. On the other hand, for patients with metastatic NSGCT, large studies of prognostic models have found the LDH level to be a significant independent predictor of survival on multivariate analysis.[10,16]
Staging and Risk Stratification
There are two major prognostication models for testicular cancer: staging, and for risk-stratification of men with distant and/or bulky retroperitoneal metastases, the International Germ Cell Cancer Consensus Group classification. The prognosis of testicular germ cell tumors is determined by the following factors:
- Histology (seminoma vs. nonseminoma).
- The extent to which the tumor has spread (testis only vs. retroperitoneal lymph node involvement vs. pulmonary or distant nodal metastasis vs. nonpulmonary visceral metastasis).
- For nonseminomas, the degree to which serum tumor markers are elevated.
Thus, for men with disseminated seminomas, the main adverse prognostic variable is the presence of metastases to organs other than the lungs (e.g., bone, liver, or brain). For men with disseminated nonseminomas, the following variables are independently associated with poor prognosis:
- Metastases to organs other than the lungs.
- Highly elevated serum tumor markers.
- Tumor that originated in the mediastinum rather than the testis.
Nonetheless, even patients with widespread metastases at presentation, including those with brain metastases, may have curable disease and should be treated with this intent.
Radical inguinal orchiectomy with initial high ligation of the spermatic cord is the procedure of choice in diagnosing and treating a malignant testicular mass. As noted above, serum AFP, LDH, and hCG should be measured prior to orchiectomy. Transscrotal biopsy is not considered appropriate because of the risk of local dissemination of tumor into the scrotum or its spread to inguinal lymph nodes. A retrospective analysis of reported series in which transscrotal approaches had been used showed a small but statistically significant increase in local recurrence rates compared with the recurrence rates when the inguinal approach was used (2.9% vs. 0.4%).[Level of evidence: 3iiiDii] Distant recurrence and survival rates, however, were indistinguishable in the two approaches.