What is testicular cancer?
Testicular cancer (TC) is the most common type of cancer for young men. If not detected early, it is potentially a fatal disease, mainly affecting men between the ages of 15 to 40 years of age.
A very early sign of testicular cancer is usually a small, painless pea-sized lump on the testicle. The lump is not painful, but other symptoms may include a dull ache in the lower abdomen or groin, swelling or discomfort in a testicle, and a collection of fluid in the scrotum area.
How is TC diagnosed?
There are several ways to diagnose testicular cancer.
- Blood tests using tumour markers which show the presence of cancer cells.
- An ultra sound of the scrotum can detect the presence and size of a tumour.
- A biopsy, which is a sample of tissue taken from the problem area of the testicle, and is tested in a laboratory, can determine whether the lump is cancerous or benign.
- Self-examination is undoubtedly the best way to spot the possible presence of TC. On a monthly basis, and ideally after a warm bath or shower, gently roll each testicle between the thumb and fingers of both hands. Don’t rush your self-examination – take at least 2 minutes to do a proper job. If you feel any lumps and bumps, or slight swelling of a testicle or scrotum, contact your doctor without delay to establish the cause.
The good news is that research has shown that only about 4% of testicular lumps may be cancerous, and that with early detection, testicular cancers are often curable in 90 to 95 percent of cases.
Treatment protocols for testicular cancer
TC has an extraordinary high survival rate, especially if it is detected at an early stage. Treatment for TC can involve surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy – or a combination of all three.
Surgical removal of the affected testicle is usually the first line of treatment, and if the cancer is in the early stages, it is all the treatment that may be needed. The operation site could also be specifically targeted and treated with a course of radiation therapy, to make sure that there are no lingering cancer cells.
In the case of advanced TC, treatment may include a combination of surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy, to prevent the tumour from spreading any further.
How testicular cancer may change your sex life
Although symptoms of TC do not usually include any sexual dysfunction, especially after surgery to remove a testicle, and further treatment, there might be some changes in your sex life.
Here is a list of possible changes:
- About 20% of men undergoing treatment TC may experience a measure of erectile dysfunction, and possible ejaculation disorders.
- After surgery, some men are not keen to engage in sexual activities for a few weeks, due to pain in the surgery area, and possibly some performance anxiety.
- The diagnosis of TC and details of the resultant treatment that is to follow, can give rise to feelings of fear, anxiety, and anger. These emotions can negatively affect your libido and your sexual desire, but things should return to normal over time.
- Chemotherapy and radiation may result in erectile dysfunction, and a struggle to get and maintain an erection.
It is important to note that these changes are mostly of a temporary nature. After your treatment is completed, you have every chance of your sexuality returning to normal.
The removal of one testicle may leave you feeling somewhat emasculated, but medical experts agree that this is mainly psychological.
As long as you still have one testicle, your sex life will not be unduly affected, and your fertility, even after chemo or radiation, should not be any different to the way it was before you developed testicular cancer.
However, if both testicles need to be removed, you will be infertile, as your body will not be able to produce any sperm.
We can help
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