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    Understanding Testicular Cancer -- the Basics

    What Is Testicular Cancer?

    Testicular cancer is cancer in a man's testicle. The two testicles, or testes, are glands that produce male hormones and sperm. They hang beneath and behind a man's penis in a pouch of skin called the scrotum. The spermatic cord, composed of the sperm duct, nerves, and blood vessels, connects each testicle to the body.


    Testicular cancer may spread slowly or quickly. Testicular cancer usually spreads to nearby lymph nodes, the lungs, the liver, bones, and possibly the brain.

    Testicular cancer is among the most treatable of cancers, even in an advanced stage, and it is rarely fatal. Over 90% of patients are diagnosed with small, localized cancers that are very treatable. Improved detection and treatment techniques have raised the overall five-year survival rate above 95% for most of these cancers. Even if the cancer has spread to nearby organs, patients have an excellent chance of long-term survival.

    What Causes Testicular Cancer?

    Doctors don't know why a man develops testicular cancer. But doctors have found links between testicular cancer and other factors.

    Testicular cancer often happens in men who were born with a condition called an undescended testicle (cryptorchidism). Testicular cancer may also run in families, usually from parent to child. Genetic disorders such as Klinefelter's syndrome and Down syndrome increase the risk of testicular cancer. With Klinefelter’s syndrome the risk of testicular cancer is 6 to10 times that of the general population.

    The strongest risk factor for developing testicular cancer is a personal history of testicular cancer. The chance of developing cancer in the opposite testicle is 1% to 2%, which is 500 times that of the normal population.

    Men with fertility problems are more likely to be diagnosed with testicular cancer, and testicular cancer increases the risk of infertility. All men with fertility problems should be checked for cancer of the testicle.

    Other things may lead to testicular cancer, but there isn’t a proven link. These things include not exercising, early puberty, having had mumps, a testicular injury, elevated temperature in the scrotum, pesticides, and radiation.

    Conditions related to the man's mother during pregnancy could be factors as well, including abnormal bleeding, estrogen therapy, or taking the drug diethylstilbestrol (DES) during pregnancy.

    Other rare conditions associated with an increased risk of testicular cancer include testicular feminization, true hermaphroditism, persistent mullerian syndrome, and cutaneous ichthyosis.

    Noncancerous growths in the testicle are rare, so all lumps should be assumed to be cancer until examined by a doctor.

    WebMD Medical Reference

    Reviewed by Sujana Movva, MD on March 14, 2015

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