Cancer by the Numbers: Testicular Cancer

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testicular cancerTesticular cancer, cancer in one or both of the testicles, usually occurs in young men and will strike about 8,250 of these men this year. About 370 men will die.

A man's lifetime risk of developing this cancer -- that typically shows up in only one testicle -- is 1 in 300, securing it as one of the less common cancers in the United States. The chances of dying from testicular cancer are 1 in 5,000, making it one of the most curable forms of cancer. Yet it is still the most common form of cancer in men ages 15-34. It is also a cancer commonly characterized by denial and embarrassment. As a result, it is one of the least mentioned cancers.

Warning signs of testicular cancer -- a disease of unknown cause -- include a lump or enlargement in either testicle, a heavy feeling in the scrotum, a dull ache in the abdomen or groin, a sudden collection of fluid in the scrotum, pain or discomfort in a testicle or scrotum, enlargement or tenderness of the breasts, and unexplained fatigue and general unwell feelings. Possible risk factors for this cancer include age, family history, HIV infection, an undescended testicle -- even when surgically relocated -- and personal history of previous testicular cancer. Any and all signs, symptoms, and relevant history should be reported to a physician.

Most men detect testicular cancer themselves, either by accident or via self-examination. Ultrasound typically follows the discovery of a concern and a biopsy, in the form of a small incision in the groin area, can confirm the presence of cancerous cells. A finding of cancer usually mandates the removal of the testicle. Various blood and imaging tests can detect the spread of the disease.

Testicular cancer, a disease with famous survivors that include cyclist Lance Armstrong; Canadian comedian Tom Green; and figure skater Scott Hamilton, is most common among white men and is classified as one of two types -- seminoma, a slow-growing cancer occurring in men ranging in age from late 30s to early 50s and almost always curable and non-seminoma, a fast-growing cancer of various forms that can metastasize and occurs primarily in younger men.

Like other cancers, testicular cancers are staged. Stage I testicular cancer refers to cancer confined to the testicle. Stage II cancer has spread to the lymph nodes in the abdomen. And Stage III has spread to other regions of the body, such as lungs and liver.

Treatment for testicular cancer includes surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, and in rare cases when chemotherapy is not effective, bone marrow transplant. Some men may also choose testicular implant surgery following treatment.

Men who are concerned about their fertility as a result of testicular cancer should talk with their physicians prior to surgery and treatment about preserving sperm through freezing and storage. Cryopreserved sperm can be used later in life.

Resources for people affected by testicular cancer are plentiful and serve as the sources of the information in this post. They include the Mayo Clinic, the American Cancer Society, Testicular Cancer Support Forums, MedlinePlus, and People Living With Cancer.

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