This type of cancer is purely made up of seminoma cancer cells. They develop from a type of germ cell which lines the walls of tiny, specialised tubes in the testicles. Seminoma tumours in the testicles tend to be slow growing, and slow to spread.
Testicular cancer - everything you need to know
28th March 2023
Around 74,000 people worldwide were diagnosed with testicular cancer in 2020. Thanks to research, huge improvements in the way we manage testicular cancer means that many people diagnosed with the disease will now survive. But what actually is testicular cancer? And what are the symptoms to look out for? In this explainer we’ve covered the basics of everything you need to know.
What is testicular cancer?
Testicular cancer affects the testicles (also called the testes). These two small glands are part of the male reproductive system. They are situated in the scrotum, underneath the penis. The testicles are responsible for producing the hormone testosterone, and also sperm after puberty.
Cancer can develop when abnormal cells in the testicles start to divide out of control. Like all cancers, this happens when the cells accumulate certain genetic changes. Scientists don’t yet fully understand exactly what these changes are, or how they are caused.
What types of testicular cancer are there?
Most types of testicular cancer develop from germ cells. Germ cells in the testicle are involved in making sperm. Testicular cancer can develop from just one type of germ cell, or from a mix of different types of germ cell.
Types of testicular cancer
These cancers are made up of cells that have developed from other types of germ cells in the testicles. They can be made up of one type of cell, or they can be mixed (sometimes with seminoma cells). Non-seminomas may be faster growing, and may be more likely to spread to the lymph nodes. They tend to be diagnosed in younger people, aged 15 to 35.
Who is at risk of developing testicular cancer?
Testicular cancer can affect anyone who has testicles. This can include men, trans women, and non‑binary people.
Although people of any age can develop testicular cancer, those under 50 are more at risk. Over 8 in 10 cases of testicular cancer diagnosed globally in 2020 were in people under 50 years old. In men under 35, it is the second most common cancer after lymphoma.
Worldwide Cancer Research supporter Jack was diagnosed with testicular cancer when he was just 28. Read Jack’s story here.
Some families might also have an increased risk of developing testicular cancer. If someone in your family has had testicular cancer, you may also be more likely to develop it.
What are the symptoms of testicular cancer?
The most common symptom is a lump or swelling in the testicle. Pain in the area around the testes is also common. The scrotum might ache, or feel sore, or heavy.
Some testicular cancers might also disrupt production of hormones, which can cause other symptoms in the body. For example, breast pain can sometimes be a sign of some rare types of testicular cancer.
How can I check for testicular cancer?
Doctors recommend that anyone with testicles check them regularly for lumps, or other changes. It could be nothing, but any change from how they usually feel is always worth checking out with a doctor.
As Worldwide Cancer Research supporter Dan knows, finding a lump can be really worrying. But an early discovery of any potential problem can make all the difference to the success of treatment, and the chance of a complete cure.
How is testicular cancer treated?
Testicular cancer is usually very treatable, especially if it is caught early. Treatment options can depend on how far the cancer has progressed, the type of cancer, and the risk of it returning.
Surgery to remove the cancer (orchidectomy) is usually a first step. Doctors can then study a sample of the cancer under the microscope to find out more about the type of cancer, and whether further treatment is needed.
Followed-up treatments might include chemotherapy or radiation, to make sure all of the cancer cells are cleared, and to reduce the risk of the cancer cells returning.
- Chemotherapy treatments vary, but they usually involve undergoing several courses of therapy with one or more types of strong anti‑cancer drug. These drugs are infused into the bloodstream.
- Radiotherapy involves using high-energy radiation beams to destroy cancer cells.
How is your support helping testicular cancer research?
Anyone in England and Wales diagnosed with testicular cancer in the 1970s had a 7 in 10 chance of surviving the disease for 10 years. Now, thanks to research -including projects funded by you - many cases of testicular cancer can be cured. Over 9 in 10 people diagnosed with testicular cancer today will survive the disease for at least 10 years.
With more people than ever now surviving, researchers are also beginning to focus on how best to help long-term survivors of the disease. High-dose chemotherapy with stem cell transplantation is a newer form of treatment currently in development. This innovative cure may help to reduce the risk of testicular cancer returning, while also helping to save a patient’s bone marrow cells that can be destroyed with high levels of chemotherapy.
And around 1 in every 10 people diagnosed with testicular cancer will still sadly not survive for 10 years. It’s for these people, and for everyone who has been affected by testicular cancer, that Worldwide Cancer Research continues to fund the most cutting-edge discovery cancer research there is.
It’s only thanks to you and our Curestarters that we can say ‘Yes’ to those crucial discovery research projects that could one day help to improve the lives of people with testicular cancer.
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