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Testicular Cancer Treatment (PDQ®): Treatment - Health Professional Information [NCI] - General Information About Testicular Cancer


Evaluation of the retroperitoneal lymph nodes, usually by CT scanning, is an important aspect of staging and treatment planning in adults with testicular cancer.[21,22] Patients with a negative result however, have a substantial chance of having microscopic involvement of the lymph nodes. Nearly 20% of seminoma patients and 30% of nonseminoma patients with normal CT scans and serum tumor markers will subsequently relapse if not given additional treatment after orchiectomy.[23,24,25] For nonseminoma patients, retroperitoneal lymph node dissection (RPLND) increases the accuracy of staging but as many as 10% of men with normal imaging, normal tumor markers, and benign pathology at RPLND will still go on to relapse.[26] About 25% of patients with clinical stage I nonseminomatous testicular cancer will be upstaged to pathologic stage II with RPLND, and about 25% of clinical stage II patients will be downstaged to pathologic stage I with RPLND.[26,27,28] In prepubertal children, the use of serial measurements of AFP has proven sufficient for monitoring response after initial orchiectomy. Lymphangiography and para-aortic lymph node dissection do not appear to be useful or necessary in the proper staging and management of testicular cancer in prepubertal boys.[29] (Refer to the Genital/Urinary Tumors section in the PDQ summary on Unusual Cancers of Childhood for more information.)

Patients who have been cured of testicular cancer have approximately a 2% cumulative risk of developing a cancer in the opposite testicle during the 15 years after initial diagnosis.[30,31] Within this range, men with nonseminomatous primary tumors appear to have a lower risk of subsequent contralateral testis tumors than men with seminomas.

HIV-infected men are reported to be at increased risk for developing testicular seminomas.[32] Depending on comorbid conditions such as active infection, these men are generally managed similarly to non-HIV-infected patients.

Because the majority of testis cancer patients who receive chemotherapy are curable, it is necessary to be aware of possible long-term effects of platinum-based treatment, such as the following:

  1. Fertility: Many patients have oligospermia or sperm abnormalities prior to therapy, but semen analysis results generally become more normal after treatment. The impact of standard chemotherapy on fertility in testis cancer patients is not well defined, although it is well documented that most men can father children after treatment, often without the use of cryopreserved semen. In two large studies, roughly 70% of patients actually fathered children after treatment for testicular cancer.[33,34] The likelihood of recovering fertility is related to the type of treatment received. The children do not appear to have an increased risk of congenital malformations, but the existing data are not adequate to properly investigate this issue.[35,36] It is recommended that men wait at least 3 months after completing chemotherapy before conceiving a child (unless using cryopreserved sperm collected before chemotherapy was administered).[36]

    Radiation therapy, used to treat pure seminomatous testicular cancers, can cause fertility problems because of radiation scatter to the remaining testicle during radiation therapy to retroperitoneal lymph nodes (as evidenced in the SWOG-8711 trial, for example).[37] (For more information on fertility, refer to the Sexuality and Reproductive Issues summary.) Depending on scatter dose, sperm counts fall after radiation therapy but may recover over the course of 1 to 2 years. Shielding techniques can be used to decrease the radiation scatter to the remaining normal testicle. Because chemotherapy, retroperitoneal lymph node dissection, and radiation therapy can each result in infertility, men should be offered the opportunity to bank sperm before undergoing any treatment for testis cancer other than orchiectomy.

  2. Secondary leukemias: Several reports of elevated risk of secondary acute leukemia, primarily nonlymphocytic, have appeared.[38,39] An increased risk of leukemia has been associated with platinum-based chemotherapy and radiation therapy.[38] Etoposide-containing regimens are also associated with a risk of secondary acute leukemias, usually in the myeloid lineage, and with a characteristic 11q23 translocation.[40,41] Etoposide-associated leukemias typically occur sooner after therapy than alkylating agent-associated leukemias and often show balanced chromosomal translocations on the long arm of chromosome 11. Standard etoposide dosages (<2 g/m2 cumulative dose) are associated with a relative risk of 15 to 25, but this translates into a cumulative incidence of leukemia of less than 0.5% at 5 years. Preliminary data suggest that cumulative doses of more than 2 g/m2 of etoposide may confer higher risk.
  3. Renal function: Minor decreases in creatinine clearance occur (about a 15% decrease, on average) during platinum-based therapy, but these appear to remain stable in the long term and without significant deterioration.[42]
  4. Hearing: Bilateral hearing deficits occur with cisplatin-based chemotherapy, but the deficits generally occur at sound frequencies of 4 kHz to 8 kHz, which is outside the range of conversational tones; therefore, hearing aids are rarely required if standard doses of cisplatin are administered.[42]
  5. Lung function: A study of pulmonary function tests in 1,049 long-term survivors of testis cancer reported a cisplatin-dose-dependent increase in the incidence of restrictive lung disease.[43] Whereas men receiving up to 850 mg of cisplatin had a normal risk of restrictive lung disease, men who received over 850 mg of cisplatin had a three-fold increased risk. In absolute terms, patients who received no chemotherapy had an incidence of restrictive lung disease of less than 8%, whereas the incidence of restrictive lung disease among those receiving over 850 mg of cisplatin was nearly 18%. However, only 9.5% of those with pulmonary function testing indicative of restrictive lung disease reported dyspnea. Although cisplatin was more strongly associated with decreased lung function in this study, cumulative bleomycin dose was also associated with a decline in forced vital capacity and the 1-second forced expiratory volume (FEV1) but not with restrictive lung disease.
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