Testis Cancer Overview

Testis cancer tumors can arise from several different cells within the testicle. The most common (and aggressive) type of testis tumor are germ cell tumors. Germ cell tumors may be either seminomas (the most common germ cell tumor) or non-seminomatous tumors (including embryonal cell cancers, choriocarcinomas and teratomas).

Other testis cancer tumors are interstitial tumors or secondary cancers (tumors that arise from another organ and have spread to the testis.)

First & Foremost

Testis cancer tumors include both germ cell tumors (seminomas, non-seminomatous cancers) as well as interstitial tumors that tend to be less aggressive and are often benign (Sertoli cell, Leydig cell tumors). Cancers from another site (lymph node cancers [lymphomas], prostate cancer, etc.) or benign tumors (adrenal rests) may also cause tumors within the testicle. Testis cancer tumors are one of the most curable of all aggressive cancers. Higher cure rates are dependent on early detection and the evolution of highly effective chemotherapy treatment.

The cause of the progressive increase in the number of germ cell tumors (the most common and aggressive form of testis cancer) is not known. However, it is clear that this relatively rare tumor is being detected more often now than in the past.

Testis cancer is a highly curable disease entity when treated appropriately. For unknown reasons, testis cancer is becoming more prevalent in the U.S. and elsewhere. Just as self-examination for breast cancer is taught to young women, testicular self-examination should be encouraged among young men. Advanced medical techniques in diagnosis and treatment exist which effectively address this form of cancer with low risk of complications. As with many forms of cancer, early detection and treatment can significantly enhance prognosis.

New guidelines for evaluation of men and new treatment techniques that limit the side-effects seen after curative treatment (including infertility and sexual dysfunction) have been developed by the Physicians of the Department of Urology at Cornell. Newer evaluation approaches allow earlier detection of testicular cancers when they are more likely to be curable with limited treatment (e.g., in tumors associated with microlithiasis). New treatments developed at Cornell allow preservation of testicular tissue and function with effective treatment of smaller testicular tumors.

Testis Cancer Symptoms

Testis cancer tumors often cause no symptoms outside of that of a painless masss. In some cases, a mass is noted but could be misdiagnosed initially as an infection of the area surrounding the testis (epididymitis.) Testis tumors are often noticed with incidental trauma—the mass may be misinterpreted as being the result of trauma unless effective evaluation by an experienced urologist is provided.

If a testis cancer tumor is advanced, back pain, abdominal mass or difficulty breathing may be the symptoms produced by a testicular tumor that has not been detected early as a testicular mass alone.