Treatment for testicular cancer
As testicular cancer is one of the easiest cancers to treat, very often it can be cured. The treatment of testicular cancer varies, but the first treatment is usually surgery. The type of treatment you get depends on:
- The size and stage of the cancer
- The type of testicular cancer: seminoma or non-seminoma
- If the cancer has spread
- Your general state of health
Treatment for seminomas
Surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy work well in the treatment of seminoma. Almost all seminomas can be cured. But some testicular cancers have a high risk of recurrence after surgery. This means that your doctor will watch your condition closely.
Surgery: The aim of the surgery is to remove the tumour. The affected testicle is removed in an operation called an orchidectomy.
Radiotherapy: Radiotherapy uses high-energy X-rays to kill cancer cells. It may be used after surgery to treat your cancer, even if the cancer is found only in your testicle. It is used to treat the lymph glands at the back of your abdomen.
Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy uses drugs to cure or control your cancer. It can be given after surgery in the treatment of testicular cancer. If the cancer is found only in your testicle, it might involve just one or two doses of the drug carboplatin. If the tumour has spread to other parts of your body you will need a course of chemotherapy. The most common drugs used are cisplatin, etoposide and bleomycin. Other drugs include ifosfamide, vinblastine and paclitaxel.
High-dose treatment with stem cell support: High doses of chemotherapy and a stem cell transplant can be given if the first treatment did not work or if the cancer has returned. Please see our Understanding Testicular Cancer Cancer booklet (pdf 4.49MB) for more information.
Surveillance: If you have early stage seminoma, your doctor may decide that you do not need radiotherapy or chemotherapy after surgery. Your doctor will watch you closely instead. This will involve regular blood tests, X-rays and scans.
Treatment for non-seminoma
Surgery and chemotherapy are mainly used to treat non-seminomas. Both treatments work well and usually cure these cancers.
Surgery: The aim of the surgery is to remove the tumour. The affected testicle is removed during surgery. If the tumour is found at an early stage and if the tumour markers return to normal after surgery, you may not need any more treatment. In some cases, the lymph nodes at the back of your abdomen may also be removed.
Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy uses drugs to cure or control your cancer. If the tumour has spread to other parts of your body, like the lymph nodes in your abdomen or lungs, or you are at a high risk of recurrence, you will need chemotherapy.
High-dose treatment with stem cell support: High doses of chemotherapy and a stem cell transplant can be given if the first treatment did not work or if the cancer has returned. Please see Understanding Testicular Cancer booklet (pdf 4.49MB) for more information.
Surveillance: If you have early stage non-seminoma, your doctor may decide that you do not need radiotherapy or chemotherapy after surgery. Your doctor will watch you closely instead. This will involve regular blood tests, X-rays and scans.
The type of side-effects you get will depend on the type of treatment, the dose, the duration and your own general health. Some treatments may make you feel sick. You might vomit or have diarrhoea. You might also lose your hair or not feel like eating. Many treatments cause you to feel very tired (fatigue).
Surgery: You may experience some pain after surgery and some swelling or bruising of your scrotum. Your doctor will prescribe painkillers to relieve this.
Fertility: If you have one testicle removed, you can still have an erection and reach orgasm. If the lymph nodes close to your testicle are also removed, there is a risk that the nerves that control the release of sperm from your penis (ejaculation) may be damaged. This may cause you to be less fertile, but there is still a high chance that you could father a child. If you have both testicles removed, you will be infertile.
Before surgery, your doctor will discuss these possible side-effects with you. You can also decide to have some of your sperm frozen for later use. See our pages on side-effects of cancer treatments for more information.
If a treatment looks like it might be helpful, it is given to patients in research studies called clinical trials. Trials may be taking place at the hospital you are attending. If you are interested in taking part, talk to your doctor. He or she can tell you if the trial would suit you or not. See our page on clinical trials.
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