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Testicular cancer is a relatively uncommon cancer that affects the testicles or testes. Dr. Raman Tanwar, leading mens health specialist divulges how approximately 1 in 10000 men across the world develop this disease and what every man should know to self-examine and get the possible cure at the earliest.
Testicles both make and store testosterone. The growth of the male reproductive system and other physical traits are regulated by testosterone. Due to a combination of genetic as well as environmental disturbances cells in the testis can turn cancerous. The trends say that the incidence of Testicular cancer is increasing every year. Today the average age at diagnosis is 33 years; the condition primarily affects young and middle-aged men. In very rare cases, it can happen before puberty. Less than 10% of cases occur after the age of 55.
The Symptoms that should make you think about Testicular Cancer
Testicular cancer symptoms are frequently present early but can also develop much later. A person might become aware of a change, or a doctor might detect it through a routine physical examination. A painless lump or swelling in the testis is a typical early sign of the disease. The testicles can change for a variety of reasons. Anyone who notices a change should visit a doctor, even though a lump is not always indicative of cancer.
There could be severe scrotal or testicular pain, a feeling of heaviness in the penis, and the testicles being of different sizes. Hormonal changes can sometimes result in breast growth and soreness. A person may observe the following in the later stages as cancer spreads to other organs. Lower back pain, difficulty in breathing if cancer spreads to the lymph nodes, liver damage, abdominal pain, headaches, and confusion if cancer spreads to the brain. In the germ cells, the majority of testicular cancers begin. These testicular cells are responsible for producing immature sperm.
Although the cause of cancerous testicular cells is unknown, some genetic factors may increase the risk. The following risk factors make testicular cancer more likely to occur in susceptible individuals. Having an undescended testicle or having a white family history of testicular cancer rather than a black or Asian one is known as cryptorchidism. The risk may augment if one has HIV, but the risk is not increased by having a vasectomy. Since no one knows what causes testicular cancer, there is no way to prevent it.
How can we Diagnose in Time ?
Typically if there is a suspicion of tumor doctor will suggest a blood test that can measure the amounts of lactate dehydrogenase, human chorionic gonadotrophin, and alpha-fetoprotein. These substances have the potential to signal the presence of a tumour.
An ultrasound can show whether a tumour is present and how big it is.
Occasionally there is a need to remove a small piece of testicular tissue for examination under a microscope. This process called a biopsy can reveal the presence or absence of cancer.
Before discussing a treatment plan with the patient, a doctor will need to know the type of cancer present and what stage it is at if tests reveal that testicular cancer is present. The two main categories are seminoma and non-seminomatous testicular cancer.
Options for treatment will also depend on the stage of cancer.
Localised cancer: Cancer has not spread and only affects the testicles. This is the early stage of cancer and prone to complete cure in most cases.
Locally Advanced Cancer: Regionally, cancer has spread to the abdominal lymph nodes.
Distant Spread: Cancer has spread to the lungs, liver, brain, and bones, among other organs. This is often termed as the last stage of cancer
Can we effectively cure Testicular Cancer ?
Particularly in the early stages, testicular cancer is mostly treatable. Most men with testicular cancer will continue to live for at least another five years after their diagnosis. Typically, a trusted treatment will include a mix of surgery, radiation treatment, chemotherapy, and stem cell therapy along with monitoring. In the sections below, we go over these choices in more detail:
Surgery for managing cancer Testis
A surgeon will remove either one or both testicles to stop the tumour from growing further. A person’s sex life and fertility are typically unaffected by the removal of one testicle. However the male will not be able to conceive naturally if both testicles are removed. There are other ways to get pregnant, though. For instance, the doctor might advise sperm banking so it can be used later if necessary.
Some side effects for testicle removal includes a decrease in sex drive, difficulty getting an erection, weariness, loss of muscle mass and hot flashes. A physician may suggest testosterone supplements in the form of a gel, patch, or injection or other medicines to boost testosterone production in cases when the testosterone becomes low and its symptoms start to appear.
Chemotherapy and Stem cell therapy
Sometimes, higher doses of chemotherapy that would otherwise be too risky to administer can be given to a patient thanks to stem cell therapy. A specialised device will draw stem cells from the patient’s blood weeks prior to treatment. These cells will be frozen and stored by healthcare professionals. After receiving a heavy dose of chemotherapy, the patient will receive stem cells via a vein transfusion. These cells settle in the bone marrow and produce new blood cells. This makes it possible for the body to recover from higher chemotherapy doses. There are some drawbacks to this form of therapy, as Chemotherapy is dangerous and can have life-threatening adverse effects due to the high dosage.
Through the use of radiation, the active cancer cells can be killed. Radiation is often used to add-on to the effects of surgery or chemotherapy. It is typically a painless way to manage cancer of the testis
How to Prevent Testicular Cancer by Self Examination ?
Self-examination regularly can aid in early diagnosis. The best time to check for testicular cancer is right after a warm shower or bath when the scrotal skin is relaxed. Follow this two-step method for self-examination:
- Gently cup both hands and palms around the scrotum. Check the skin of the scrotum for any swelling while standing in front of a mirror.
- Consider how big and heavy the testis are.
Because early diagnosis simplifies treatment and facilitates care, all men should understand the disease, and young men should examine themselves monthly to aptly detect the disease in its earliest stages when it is easiest to cure. You can read more about self examination of Testicular cancer here.