Testicular cancer is a cancer that begins in the testicles. This type of cancer is not very common compared to other forms; however, about one in every 263 men will develop testicular cancer at some point during their lives. This is a disease that largely affects young and middle-aged men, but about 14% of cases are among children, teens, and men over the age of 55.
Once you are diagnosed with testicular cancer, your treatment plan will depend on the type and stage of your cancer, as well as your overall health and personal preferences. Treatment options for testicular cancer can include:
There are several different operations that can be used to treat testicular cancer. These include:
- Radical inguinal orchiectomy: This is usually the first line of treatment for all stages and types of testicular cancer. This procedure involves removing the affected testicle by making an incision at your groin and extracting the testicle through the opening. If you choose, a prosthetic, saline-filled testicle can be inserted to replace it. Losing one testicle usually has no effect on a man’s ability to get an erection and have sex. However, if both testicles are removed, this could cause a decrease in the hormone testosterone, which can decrease your sex drive and affect your ability to get an erection. Usually, these side effects can be avoided by taking testosterone supplements.
- Retroperitoneal lymph node dissection: This is surgery to remove lymph nodes near the testicles, and it is performed after a radical inguinal orchiectomy if the cancer has spread. An incision is usually made in the abdomen to remove the lymph nodes, but this procedure can sometimes be done laparoscopically. Even though there is great care taken to avoid damaging the surrounding nerves, sometimes this is unavoidable. If nerves are damaged in this area, it will not prevent you from having an erection, but it can cause problems with ejaculation.
Ideally, surgery is the only treatment needed for testicular cancer. However, sometimes other options are also recommended.
This is a treatment therapy that involves using high-powered energy beams to kill cancer cells in a localized area. For some types of testicular cancer, radiation is recommended after surgery to kill any remaining cancer cells. Since radiation will often cause infertility, talk with your doctor before treatment begins about preserving some of your sperm if you plan to have children in the future.
Chemotherapy is a treatment method that circulates drugs throughout your body to kill cancer cells that might have migrated from the original tumor. Sometimes chemotherapy is recommended before surgery to shrink a tumor or after surgery to kill any remaining cancer cells.
Unfortunately, chemotherapy can cause many undesirable side effects such as fatigue, nausea, hair loss, and increased risk of infection. There are many different medications your doctor can prescribe to reduce some of these side effects. Like radiation therapy, chemotherapy is also likely to cause infertility, so you may want to look into ways to preserve your sperm before treatment begins.