About testicular cancer
What are the testicles?
The testicles are also called the testes. They are part of the reproductive system in men. They are two small egg-shaped organs found below your penis in a pouch of skin called the scrotum. The testicles lie outside your body because they need to be at a lower temperature than your body so they can make sperm. When you reach puberty, your testicles start to make sperm. Sperm are needed to fertilise a female egg after sex, so a baby can develop.
Your testicles also make the hormone, testosterone. This hormone is responsible for male qualities including a deep voice, facial hair and strong muscles. It also gives you a sex drive and the ability to have an erection.
What is testicular cancer?
Most testicular cancers are germ cell tumours. Germ cells are the special cells that are needed for reproduction.
There are two main types of testicular cancer: seminoma and non-seminoma.
Seminomas: These usually develop between the ages of 30 and 50. One in every three testicular cancers is a seminoma. Seminomas grow slowly and respond very well to treatment.
Non-seminomas: These develop between the ages of 15 and the early 40s. They tend to grow and spread faster than seminomas. They include teratomas, embryonal cancers and mixed germ-cell tumours. Sometimes a form of non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL) can occur in the testicle. This is treated separately as non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL).
Other rare types of testicular tumours are Leydig and Sertoli cell tumours. These tumours can be benign (not cancer) or malignant (cancer). If the tumour is benign, surgery to remove the testicle (orchidectomy) may be the only treatment you need. If they are malignant, your doctor might recommend surgery to the lymph nodes. This is called a retroperitoneal lymph node dissection.
How common is testicular cancer?
Testicular cancer is quite rare, but it is the most common cancer found in young men aged between 15 and 34 years. Each year about 176 men are diagnosed with testicular cancer in Ireland. This number has been growing over the past few years.