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Testicular Cancer - Topic Overview

Testicular cancer occurs when cells that aren't normal grow out of control in the testicles (testes). It is highly curable, especially when it is found early.

The testes are the two male sex organs that make and store sperm camera.gif. They are located in a pouch below the penis called the scrotum. The testes also make the hormone testosterone.

Testicular cancer is rare. But it is the most common cancer among young men.

Most testicular cancers start in cells that make sperm. These cells are called germ cells. The two main types of testicular germ cell cancers are seminomas and nonseminomas. Seminomas grow and spread slowly and respond to radiation therapy. Nonseminomas grow and spread more quickly than seminomas. There are several different types of nonseminomas.

This topic covers seminoma and nonseminoma cancer. It does not cover non-germ cell testicular cancers, such as Leydig cell tumors.

Experts don't know what causes testicular cancer. But some problems, such as having an undescended testicle or Klinefelter syndrome, may increase a man's risk for this cancer. Most men who get testicular cancer don't have any risk factors.

The most common symptoms of testicular cancer include:

  • A lump or swelling in the scrotum that may or may not be painful.
  • A heavy feeling in the scrotum.
  • A dull pain or feeling of pressure in the lower belly or groin.

Most men find testicular cancer themselves by chance or during a self-exam camera.gif. Or a doctor may find it during a routine physical exam.

Because other problems can cause symptoms like those of testicular cancer, your doctor may order tests to find out if you have another problem. These tests may include blood tests and imaging tests of the testicles such as an ultrasound or a CT scan.

If these tests show signs of cancer, you will have surgery to remove the testicle. Surgery is the only way to know for sure if you have testicular cancer and what kind of cancer it is. This information also helps in planning any other treatment you may need.

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