When healthy cells in a testicle begin to change and grow in an abnormal, uncontrolled
way, a mass or “tumour” forms and the patient is said to have testicular cancer. This
condition is also known as testis cancer. If the tumour is cancerous, it is referred to as
“malignant” and can spread to other areas of the patient’s body.
Testicular cancer affects around 2,300 people in the UK every year. Middle-aged and
younger white men are most commonly affected. Nearly all cases of testicular cancer are
successfully cured, as the treatment is very effective. It can’t be passed on to other people
because, like all cancers, it is not infectious.
Testicular cancer has no identified links with vasectomy.
Many types of cells make up the testicles, and each cell can develop into a number of
different cancers. By looking at these cells under a microscope, an oncologist can work out
which type of testicular cancer a patient has. A patient’s outlook, or prognosis, and
treatment are determined by the type of cancer they have, so it’s vital that the doctor
identifies which type of cell the cancer started in.
Every patient with testicular cancer is unique. The oncologists in the cancer treatment
centre a patient attends will be able to properly stage and diagnose their condition, so that
they can develop a treatment plan tailored to the specific type of testicular cancer they are
Testicular cancer has two main types:
Non-seminomas develop from specialised, more mature cells. The aggressiveness of this
disease varies, and it’s most common in men around their mid-30s. Yolk sac tumours,
teratomas, choriocarcinomas and embryonal carcinomas fall into this category.
50 to 55% of testicular cancers are seminomas, which have become increasingly common
over the past two decades.
Seminomas occur when germ cells become malignant at an early stage in their
development. Depending on their origin, these tumours may be typical, spermatocytic or
❖ Over 95% of seminomas are typical, or classical, and are found in men aged 25 to
❖ Spermatocytic seminomas are less common and tend to occur in older men. They
are less likely to spread than typical seminomas, and generally grow more slowly.
❖ Anaplastic seminomas are also rare, and are more likely to spread to other parts
of the body than other seminomas.
Germ cells in the testicles are the point of origin for both seminomas and non-seminomas.
Around 95% of all testicular cancer cases are “germ cell testicular cancer”, the most
common form of testicular cancer. The germ cells are the cells used to create sperm.
Testicular cancer is treated similarly regardless of the type. This means your experience will
be fairly similar no matter which type you have.
Chemotherapy is effective for both main types of germ cell testicular cancer.
Other types of germ cell tumour include…
❖ Precursor lesions:
➢ Germ cell neoplasia in situ.
❖ Pure forms:
➢ Spermatocytic seminoma;
➢ Trophoblastic tumours.
❖ Mixed forms:
➢ Embryonal carcinoma and teratoma;
➢ Choriocarcinoma and teratoma/embryonal carcinoma;
➢ Teratoma and seminoma.
There are some other, less common forms of testicular cancer. These include…
❖ Lymphoma, accounting for about 4% of cases;
❖ Leydig cell tumours, accounting for about 1-3% of cases;
❖ Sertoli cell tumours, accounting for about 1% of cases.
A rare type of testicular tumour known as a stromal tumour can develop in some cases. In
most cases, these tumours occur during childhood. These are not normally cancerous.
Sertoli cell tumours and Leydig cell tumours are the two most common types of stromal
Testicular cancers usually spread through the spermatic cord – a set of tubular structures
that support the testicles in the scrotum – as well as the associated blood and lymph
vessels. The cancer is then able to spread to nearest lymph nodes, called the
retroperitoneal lymph nodes. In some cases, this can spread to the lymph nodes near the
aorta, which is the main blood vessel that leads away from the heart.
If the cancer spreads beyond the lymph nodes, it’s most likely to affect the liver, brain,
bones or lungs.
Testing for Testicular Cancer
A firm mass, or lump, in one of the testicles is typically revealed during a physical
examination for testicular cancer. This lump will not allow light to pass through if your
health care provider holds a flashlight up to your scrotum. This is a test known as
10 Facts about Testicular Cancer
1. When testicular cells become malignant, or abnormal, in one or both testicles, a
disease called testicular cancer develops.
2. We are yet to identify the exact cause of testicular cancer.
3. The condition is usually discovered first when the patient finds a swelling or lump in
4. Diagnosis of testicular cancer is carried out based on physical, blood and ultrasound
tests to measure tumour markers, as well as the patient’s history. A biopsy of
testicular tissue may also be necessary.
5. The cancer’s spread in the body is determined by staging. This is often carried out
using CT, PET and MRI scans, abdominal lymph node dissection, serum tumour
markers and chest x-rays.
6. Testicular cancer is divided into four stages, labelled from 0 to III.
7. Chemotherapy, surgery and radiation therapy may be used to treat testicular
cancer. Side effects for these treatments can include sexual dysfunction and
infertility, as well as other non-specific side effects from chemotherapy and
8. Common symptoms include enlarged testicles, fluid collection in the scrotum, aches
in the abdomen, back or groin, and testicular pain.
9. Risk factors include kidney and penile (congenital) abnormalities, being white, a
family or personal history of testicular cancer and undescended testicles.
10. Seminomas and non-seminomas are the two main types of this disease, which is the
most common cancer in men aged 20 to 35.
For more information about testicular cancer cancer, check out Need2Know’s Essential
Guide to Testicular Cancer which walks the reader through each step, starting from the
self-examination all the way through diagnosis, treatment, recovery and returning back to
normal after the fight. Need2Know also have some great books about prostate cancer ,
breast cancer and skin cancer . Whether you’re newly diagnosed, caring for a friend or just
curious, we have all the information you need!