If a man has testicular cancer, the doctor will do more tests to find out if
the cancer has spread from the testicle to other parts of the body. This process,
called staging, helps the doctor to plan the patient’s treatment. The following
stages are used for testicular cancer:
- Stage I: Cancer is found only in the testicle.
- Stage II: Cancer has spread to the lymph nodes in the abdomen.
- Stage III: Cancer has spread beyond the lymph nodes in the abdomen.
There may be cancer in parts of the body far away from the testicles, such
as the lungs and liver.
- Recurrent: The cancer has come back (recurred) after it has been
treated. It may come back in the same place or in another part of the body.
A patient should regularly examine the opposite testicle for possible recurrence
for many years after treatment. Patients will probably have check-ups once
per month during the first year after surgery, every other month during the
next year, and less frequently after that.
Testicular cancer is one of the more curable types of cancer. There are four
primary treatments for disease:
Surgery is a common treatment for most stages of cancer of the testicle. A
doctor may take out the cancer by removing one or both testicles through an
incision (cut) in the groin. This is called a radical inguinal orchiectomy.
Some of the lymph nodes in the abdomen may also be removed (lymph node dissection).
Side effects of surgery: The side effects of surgery depend on the location
of the tumor and the type of operation, among other factors. Although patients
are often uncomfortable during the first few days after surgery, this pain can
usually be controlled with medicine. The recovery period after an operation
varies from patient to patient.
Radiation therapy uses x-rays or other high-energy rays to kill cancer cells
and shrink tumors. Radiation therapy for testicular cancer usually comes from
a machine outside the body (external-beam radiation).
Side effects of radiation therapy: The most common side effects of radiation
therapy are tiredness, skin reactions in the treated areas (such as a rash or
redness), and loss of appetite. Radiation therapy may also cause a decrease
in the number of white blood cells that help protect the body against infection.
Most of these side effects can be treated or controlled and in most cases they
are not permanent.
Chemotherapy uses drugs to kill cancer cells. Chemotherapy may be taken by
pill, or it may be put into the body by a needle in a vein. Chemotherapy is
called a systemic treatment because the drugs enter the bloodstream, travels
through the body, and can kill cancer cells outside the testicle.
Side effects of chemotherapy: Chemotherapy drugs generally fight rapidly
dividing cells in the body. Cells that divide rapidly include both the targeted
cancer cells and healthy cells in the blood, digestive tract, and hair follicles.
Depending on which anticancer drugs a patient receives, he or she may experience
symptoms when healthy cells are damaged along with the cancer cells. If healthy
blood cells are destroyed by chemotherapy, the patient may be more susceptible
to infections, bruising or bleeding, and fatigue. When cells in the hair roots
or digestive tract are affected by anticancer drugs, the patient may have hair
loss, nausea, vomiting, or mouth sores. Not all chemotherapy patients develop
all of these side effects, and the symptoms usually go away during the recovery
period or after the treatments are done. Doctors can prescribe medicines and
other treatments to control most of the symptoms.
Bone Marrow Transplantation
Bone marrow transplantation is a newer type of treatment for testicular cancer.
In autologous bone marrow transplants, bone marrow is taken from the patient
and treated with drugs to kill any cancer cells. The marrow is then frozen and
the patient is given high-dose chemotherapy with or without radiation therapy
to destroy all of the remaining marrow. The marrow that was taken out is then
thawed and given back to the patient through a needle in a vein to replace the
marrow that was destroyed.