If you are diagnosed with testicular cancer, your doctor will explain what type of cancer you have, whether it has spread beyond the testicle (metastasized), and the potential for curing it. You and your doctor will discuss your treatment options and possible outcomes of those treatments. Testicular cancer is highly curable, especially when it's diagnosed at an early stage.
If the cancer isn't treated during its early stages, it may spread (metastasize) to the lymph nodes and to the lungs, liver, brain, and bones. But often testicular cancer that has spread can still be treated successfully.
Some cancer treatments raise your risk of infertility. Unless you are sure you won't want to father a child in the future, talk to your doctor about sperm banking before any treatment for testicular cancer.
Treatment begins with surgery (orchiectomy) to remove the affected testicle. After surgery, depending on which type of cancer cells are present and whether your cancer has spread to other areas of your body (stage), you may need only surveillance. Or you may need further treatment.
Most testicular cancers are either seminomas or nonseminomas. The main difference between the two is that seminomas grow and spread slowly and respond to radiation therapy. Nonseminomas grow and spread more quickly than seminomas. They don't respond to radiation.
Additional information about testicular cancer is provided by the National Cancer Institute at www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/types/testicular.
Seminomas are the kind of testicular cancer that grow and spread slowly. After surgery, treatments may include:
For seminomas that are more advanced (stage II or stage III cancers), treatments begin with surgery (orchiectomy) and may include radiation, chemotherapy, or combination chemotherapy. After chemotherapy, tissue masses that remain may need to be removed with surgery.
Nonseminomas are the kind of testicular cancer that grow and spread more quickly than seminomas. They don't respond well to radiation therapy. After surgery, treatments may include:
For nonseminomas that are more advanced (stage II or stage III cancers), treatments begin with surgery (orchiectomy) and may include surgery to remove lymph nodes, chemotherapy, or combination chemotherapy. After chemotherapy, any tissue masses that remain will be removed with surgery, if possible.
If your cancer was found early, you may have a choice about further treatment. Talk with your doctor about the risks and possible side effects of each treatment option.
After treatment, it is important to receive follow-up care. This care may lead to early identification and management of cancer that comes back. Your regular follow-up program may include:
- Physical exams.
- Imaging tests, including X-rays, CT scans, and MRIs.
- Blood tests to check tumor marker levels. Stable or increasing tumor marker levels after treatment may mean that your cancer is still present or has returned. You may need more treatment.
A diagnosis of testicular cancer means that you will be seeing your doctor regularly for years to come. It's a good idea to build a relationship based on trust and the sharing of information. Your doctor may give you some advice on changes to make in your life to help treatment succeed.
Cancer that has come back
Testicular cancer that has come back (recurred) may be found during a physical exam, through an imaging test, or as a result of increasing tumor marker levels. In some cases, recurrent cancer can be successfully treated. This is especially true if the cancer has spread only to the lymph nodes in the pelvis, belly, or lower back and pelvis.
Recurrent testicular cancer may be treated with chemotherapy, surgery to remove lymph nodes, or radiation. Chemotherapy may be followed by surgery to remove any remaining cancer.
Palliative care is a kind of care for people who have a serious illness. It's different from care to cure your illness. Its goal is to improve your quality of life—not just in your body but also in your mind and spirit. You can have this care along with treatment to cure your illness.
Palliative care providers will work to help control pain or side effects. They may help you decide what treatment you want or don't want. And they can help your loved ones understand how to support you.
If you're interested in palliative care, talk to your doctor.
For more information, see the topic Palliative Care.
For some people who have advanced cancer, a time comes when treatment to cure the cancer no longer seems like a good choice. This can be because the side effects, time, and costs of treatment are greater than the promise of cure or relief. But you can still get treatment to make you as comfortable as possible during the time you have left. You and your doctor can decide when you may be ready for hospice care.
For more information, see the topics: