Testicular cancer

Testicular cancer is cancer that develops in the testicles, which are part of the male reproductive system.

By Wallace Health I Medically reviewed by Adrian Roberts.
Page last reviewed: October 2018 I Next review due: October 2021

What is testicular cancer?

Testicular cancer is when cells in your testicles start to grow abnormally and in an uncontrolled way. Most testicular cancers (95%) start in the cells that make sperm – called the germ cells.

Testicular cancer is relatively rare, but it’s the most common cancer in men aged 15 to 44 years.

The most common testicular cancer symptom is a lump or swelling in one testicle. Most testicular lumps aren’t cancer, but it’s still important to see a doctor if you notice anything unusual.

Treatment for testicular cancer is effective and most cases are now cured.

How to tell if you have testicular cancer

Symptoms of testicular cancer include:

  • A painless lump in a testicle – although some people experience testicular pain or tenderness in the affected testicle
  • A swollen testicle
  • Swollen or tender breasts – although this is rare

If the cancer spreads, other symptoms can develop including back pain (if it’s spread to your lymph glands) or shortness of breath (if it’s spread to your lungs).

Talk to your doctor if you’re concerned about symptoms

You can book an appointment with a Spire private GP today.

Diagnosis and tests for testicular cancer

Your GP will examine your testicles and may shine a light through your scrotum to identify any solid lumps that may be cancer. If they think it might be cancerous, they’ll refer you for further tests, which may include:

  • Scrotal ultrasound – to produce images of the inside of your testicle and find out if a lump is cancerous and its size and position
  • Blood tests – to detect certain hormones (known as markers) which can be a sign of testicular cancer

If cancer is confirmed, then you’ll have an X-ray, MRI and/or CT scan to check if the cancer has spread to other areas.

Causes of testicular cancer

It’s unknown what causes most testicular cancers, but risk factors that increase your chance of getting it include:

  • Undescended testicles – testicles usually descend from the abdomen before birth
  • Family history of testicular cancer
  • Previous testicular cancer
  • Infertility with an abnormal sperm count
  • Klinefelter’s syndrome – a genetic condition where a man has an extra X chromosome

Caucasian men also have a higher risk of testicular cancer than men from other ethnic groups.

Common treatments for testicular cancer

In almost all cases, your doctor will advise surgery to remove the affected testicle (orchidectomy). This will not affect your fertility or ability to have sex.

For some types of cancer, you may also receive a short course of chemotherapy and/or radiotherapy after testicle removal. This is to help prevent the cancer returning. Although in most cases the chance of recurrence is low, your doctor may recommend that you have regular check-ups as a precaution.