What is testicular cancer?
Testicular cancer is a rare tumor that accounts for 1-2% of adult totals, but of great importance as it affects young males, preferably between 15 and 35 years. The American Cancer Society’s estimates for testicular cancer in the United States for 2017 are: About 8,850 new cases of testicular cancer diagnosed, about 410 deaths from testicular cancer.
Although the causes that originate it are not well defined, it is known that the disease most frequently affects those patients whose testicles, for one reason or another, have not descended well to the scrotum since they were babies (this circumstance is called cryptorchidism). (1)
Testicle tumors are classified according to the type of cells that form them. Of all testicular tumors, 90-95% are germ cell tumors, a term that includes tumors such as seminoma (35%), embryonic carcinoma (20%), teratoma (5%), Choriocarcinoma (1%) and combinations of those previously mentioned (40%). The rest are known as non-germinal tumours (gonadoblastoma, Leydig cell tumor, and Sertoli cell tumor).
These tumors can be treated and cured completely with surgery and chemotherapy or radiotherapy, which will be applied according to the type of tumor in question and the phase in which the disease is found.
What are the symptoms of testicular cancer?
Testicular cancer is usually detected by chance. The most frequent manifestation is the increase in the non-painful size of the testicle, which is progressive and can be associated with a feeling of heaviness, although acute pain may sometimes appear in the tumor. It can also be detected casually after a trauma or by the couple during sexual intercourse. (2)
As a council we must indicate that if you notice changes in one or, less frequently, in both testicles, do not hesitate to have a proper medical examination.
How is testicular cancer diagnosed?
Self-exploration plays a key role in early diagnosis as diagnosis is usually delayed between 3 and 6 months. The identification of a mass or increase of the testicle should be evaluated by scrotal ultrasound. A significant proportion of testicular tumours produce substances known as tumour markers (Alpha-fetoprotein and human chorionic Gonadotropin) whose importance lies not only in the diagnostic point of view, but also to control the efficacy of treatment and early diagnosis of possible relapses of tumour disease. These substances are produced and released into the blood by the malignant cells of the tumor.
The study of these tumors is completed by the carrying out of an abdominal CT scan to verify the extension of the tumor to the lymph nodes.(3)
How is testicular cancer treated?
The first step is to identify the testicular tumor to select the optimal treatment. To do this, there is no other remedy than to remove the affected testicle through an incision in the groin, a procedure known as radical orchiectomy.
Depending on the type of tumor and the extent of the tumor, surgical treatment can be completed with chemotherapy or radiotherapy. The efficacy of the treatment and the vigilance of the relapses is carried out thanks to the measurement of markers and the realization of radiological studies.
The success of the treatment lies in a diagnosis as early as possible and in the determination of the extension of the tumor, which will allow to choose the optimal treatment. Treatment is effective in the vast majority of cases. In fact, the five-year survival rate in most forms of testicular cancer is more than 90% if it is detected early. There are examples in public figures (cyclists, footballers, etc.) that contribute to inviting optimism to all those who are affected by this problem.
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