Testicular Cancer Awareness Month: What You Need to Know About Testicular Cancer
Testicular cancer affects about 1 in 263 males at some point in their lifetime. The average age of men diagnosed is 33, though it can occur in children and older men. Although the incidence of testicular cancer has been increasing in the U.S. and is currently the leading cancer in men between the ages of 15 and 44, it is typically treated successfully with early detection leading to an over 95% cure rate.
Over 90% of testicular cancers develop in the cells that create sperm, known as germ cells. The main types of germ cell tumors are seminomas and non-seminomas, each of which occurs at nearly equal rates. Seminoma tumors occur in an older age range and grow and spread more slowly than non-seminomas. Non-seminomas generally occur in men between their late teens and early 30s as one of four types. The first two—embryonal carcinoma and choriocarcinoma—grow quickly and tend to spread outside the testicle. The third, yolk sac carcinoma, is most common in children, when it’s usually treated successfully. Yolk sac carcinoma is more concerning in adults, but typically responds well to chemotherapy even when it has spread. The fourth type, teratomas, have a tendency to recur and some types can spread. The majority of non-seminoma tumors are a mixture of different types of non-seminomas, and mixed germ cell tumors that contain seminoma and non-seminoma cells can occur as well. Both are treated in the same way as non-seminomas since they spread and grow just as quickly.
Testicular cancer that forms in the stroma—or hormone-producing and supportive tissues—is known as gonadal stroma tumors and occurs in two main types. Leydig cell tumors develop from the Leydig cells that produce male sex hormones like testosterone, while Sertoli cell tumors develop from the Sertoli cells responsible for supporting and feeding germ cells. These gonadal stroma tumors make up about 20% of testicular tumors in children, and less than 5% of adult testicular tumors. Gonadal stroma tumors are most often benign and can typically be removed with surgery. However, on the rare occasions that they do spread, they do not respond well to chemotherapy or radiation.
Risk factors for testicular cancer include HIV infection, carcinoma in situ (or abnormal cells that haven’t spread outside the walls of the seminiferous tubules where sperm cells form), undescended testicles, a family history of testicular cancer, or previous incidences of testicular cancer. In addition, white males and males between ages 20 and 34 are at a higher risk. Unfortunately, many males who develop testicular cancer don’t have any of the risk factors above, or their risk factors (like family history) can’t be changed. As such, it’s not possible to prevent testicular cancer in most cases. For this reason, early detection is key. Men and boys should be sure that a testicular exam is part of a regular physical in order to catch any lumps or swelling that may be signs of testicular cancer. They should also look out for pain, discomfort, or a feeling of heaviness in the testicle, a dull ache or pressure in the lower back, and breast tissue enlargement or tenderness. Advanced testicular cancer can present with weight loss, back pain, chest pain, coughing, difficulty breathing, or enlargement of the lymph nodes in the abdomen or neck.
Thankfully, treatment for testicular cancer is often very successful. Treatment varies depending on the type and stage of the diagnosed testicular cancer, but can include surgery, radiation, chemotherapy and/or stem cell transplant. Because testicular cancer is often treated successfully, the risk of dying from testicular cancer is just 1 in 5,000. Padres Pedal the Cause is working to make that number even smaller. Padres Pedal the Cause helps raise funds for essential research on cancer prevention and treatment. 100% of the proceeds raised by the Padres Pedal the Cause event go directly to life-saving research and so far, we’ve funded sixteen studies. With your help, we can help support more research projects that provide treatment and cures for people living with cancer.