Talking testicular cancer awareness with UMN- UMN News Story
April is National Testicular Cancer Awareness Month. In 2019, the American Cancer Society estimates there will be 9,560 new cases of testicular cancer in the United States.
Arpit Rao, M.D., a testicular cancer expert with the Masonic Cancer Center and the University of Minnesota Medical School, answers questions on the symptoms, treatment and screening for testicular cancer.
Q: What is testicular cancer?
Dr. Rao: Testicular cancer is a cancer that starts in the testis, the male organ located in the groin and responsible for sperm production and production of male hormones such as testosterone.
Testicular cancer is a relatively less common cancer, affecting approximately one in 250 men throughout their lifetime. Despite this, over 9,500 men will be diagnosed and over 400 will die because of testicular cancer in the U.S. in 2019 alone. Testicular cancer predominantly affects young men with the average age being 33 years old at the time of diagnosis. Approximately five percent of cases occur in children and teens, and 10 percent in men over the age of 55.
Q: What are the symptoms of testicular cancer and how is it detected?
Dr. Rao: About 60 percent of men with testicular cancer never have symptoms and visit their doctor after they, or their partner, incidentally finds a lump or swelling in a testis. Dull ache or heaviness in the lower abdomen or scrotum is the presenting symptom in 30-40 percent of cases. In about 10 percent of cases, men have symptoms due to the spread of cancer such as significant unintentional weight loss; severe fatigue or a feeling of lack of energy; persistent shortness of breath; chest pain; cough; back pain; abdominal pain; and headaches or neurologic symptoms such as weakness or numbness of a part of the body.
Q: What are the treatment options for testicular cancer?
Dr. Rao: For most patients with testicular cancer, the first treatment is removal of the diseased testis with a surgery called radical orchiectomy. A biopsy of suspected testicular cancer is not necessary and could even be harmful as the biopsy needle could potentially spill the cancer cells into tiny blood vessels that can drain these cancer cells into the nearby lymph nodes. Radical orchiectomy should be performed by a surgeon with expertise in testicular cancer as a suboptimally performed surgery could result in the cancer left behind.