Testicular cancer occurs when cells in the testicles, or testes, grow and multiply uncontrollably, damaging surrounding tissue and interfering with the normal function of the testicle. If the disease spreads, it is still called testicular cancer. Testicular cancer occurs most often in younger men. It is the most common cancer in men between ages 20 and 34. However, it accounts for only 1 percent of all cancers that occur in men. When testicular cancer is detected early, there is nearly a 99 percent chance for cure.
There are two basic types of testicular cancer, each with several subtypes:
Germ cell tumors occur in the cells that produce sperm. Tumor types include:
Seminomas, responsible for 50 percent of all testicular cancer cases. They are generally slow-growing and very responsive to treatment.
Nonseminomas tend to grow and spread faster than seminomas. Tumor types include embryonal carcinoma (about 20 percent of all testicular cancers); yolk sac carcinoma (most common in infants and young boys); choriocarcinoma, a rare and extremely aggressive cancer; and teratomas.
Stromal tumors occur in the testicular tissue where hormones are produced. Stromal tumor types include Leydig cell tumors, which occur in the cells that produce male sex hormones, and Sertoli cell tumors, which occur in the cells that provide nourishment to germ cells.
Symptoms of testicular cancer vary and may include any of the following:
- Small, hard lump that is often painless
- Change in consistency of the testicles
- Feeling of heaviness in the scrotum
- Dull ache in the lower abdomen or the groin
- Sudden collection of fluid in the scrotum
- Pain or discomfort in a testicle or in the scrotum
Many of these symptoms are not cancer, but if you notice one or more of them for more than two weeks, see your doctor.