University of California San Francisco | About UCSF | UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital San Francisco
Search Site | Find a Doctor

Testicular Cancer

When detected early, testicular cancer is highly treatable and usually curable, which is why early diagnosis and treatment are so important for men of all ages. Adolescent boys and young men should be particularly aware of the signs and symptoms of the disease and perform regular testicular self-exams.

Testicular cancer is a disease in which cells become malignant, meaning cancerous, in one or both of the testicles. Testicular cancer can be broadly classified into two types: seminoma and nonseminoma. Seminomas make up about 40 percent of all testicular cancers. Nonseminomas are a group of cancers that include choriocarcinoma, embryonal carcinoma, teratoma and yolk sac tumors. A testicular cancer may have a combination of both types.

Most men can detect their own testicular cancers. Doctors generally examine the testicles during routine physical exams. Between regular checkups, if you notice anything unusual about your testicles, you should talk with your doctor.

Common symptoms include:

  • A painless lump or swelling in either testicle
  • Any enlargement of a testicle or change in the way it feels
  • A feeling of heaviness in the scrotum
  • A dull ache in the lower abdomen or the groin
  • A sudden collection of fluid in the scrotum
  • Pain or discomfort in a testicle or in the scrotum

To help find the cause of symptoms, the doctor will evaluate your general health. Your doctor will perform a physical exam and may order laboratory and diagnostic tests. If a tumor is suspected, your doctor will probably recommend an ultrasound. If a tumor is detected, the testicle is removed.

  • Blood tests — Measures the levels of tumor markers. Tumor markers are substances often found in higher-than-normal amounts when cancer is present. Tumor markers for testicular cancer involve beta human chorionic gonadotropin hormone (B-hCG); alpha-fetoprotein, a blood protein that's present in adults with some forms of cancer; and lactate dehydrogenase (LDH), a protein that can be elevated by cancer.
  • Ultrasound — A diagnostic test in which high-frequency sound waves are bounced off tissues and internal organs. Their echoes produce a picture called a sonogram. Ultrasound of the scrotum can show the presence and size of a mass in the testicle. It is also helpful in ruling out other conditions, such as swelling due to infection.
  • Show More

Four treatments commonly used for testicular cancer are surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy and bone marrow transplant.

Surgery

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 in a procedure called a lymph node dissection.

Radiation Therapy

Radiation therapy uses X-rays or other high-energy rays to kill cancer cells and shrink tumors. Radiation usually is emitted by a machine and is called external-beam radiation, rather than radiation emitted by a substance consumed by the patient.

Show More

Learn More

UCSF Research & Clinical Trials

Other Resources

 

Reviewed by health care specialists at UCSF Medical Center.