Testicular Cancer Information
Learn More About Cancer of the Testes: Chat with Us | Email Us
What Is Testicular Cancer?
Cancer that develops in the testicles (also called the testes) is known as testicular cancer. It can form in one or both of these male sex glands, which produce sperm and testosterone.
Testicular cancer is a very rare disease that most commonly occurs in younger men ages 15 to 34. However, it may affect men at any age. According to the National Cancer Institute, testicular cancer accounts for about one percent of all cancers in men. Testicular cancer is very treatable, especially if it is detected in its early stages.
Understanding Testicular Cancer
The scrotum, a pouch-like structure hanging below the base of the penis, holds the glands called the testicles, or testes. They are a central part of the male reproductive system. Each testis (singular) manufactures and stores sperm within a network of tubes called efferent ductules. Because the testicles also manufacture the male sex hormone, testosterone, the testes are also considered part of the endocrine system.
Reproductive bodies called germ cells develop into sperm through a process of cellular division called meiosis. Under normal circumstances, cell division is regulated. However, for unknown reasons, sometimes the germ cells begin to divide uncontrollably and, instead of producing functional sperm, the germ cells create copies of themselves. When this happens, the cells are considered cancerous. This kind of out-of-control division may happen to any type of cell in the testicle. However, nearly 95 percent of all testicular cancers develop in germ cells.
Common Types of Testicular Cancer
Treatment of testicular cancer may depend on the kind of cells involved. There are many types of cells found in the testicles, all of which can become cancerous. However, there are two main types of tumors that account for the majority of testicular cancers:
- Seminoma – There are two sub-types of seminomas, and the classical (typical) seminomas are more likely to occur in men between ages of 30 and 50. Spermatocytic seminomas are less common and are found more frequently in men 55 years and older. However, both types of seminoma tumors may occur in all age groups.
- Non-Seminoma – There are four main sub-types of non-seminoma tumors: embryonal carcinoma, yolk sac carcinoma, choriocarcinoma, and teratoma. These types of tumors generally occur between the teen years and early 40s. They also tend to grow and spread more quickly than seminomas.
Testicular cancer may involve one or both kinds of tumors.
Stromal Tumors are sometimes referred to as gonadal stromal tumors. This is a rare form of testicular cancer, accounting for only about five percent of cases. In addition to producing sperm for reproduction, the testicles, or male gonads, are also a component of the endocrine system, a series of hormone-producing glands. The stromal cells in the testes produce male sex hormones (androgens), like testosterone. Most stromal tumors are benign; that is, the tumor cells typically do not spread (metastasize) to other parts of the body. However, stromal tumors that do spread sometimes do not respond to conventional treatments, like chemotherapy or radiation. Stromal tumors include:
- Leydig cell tumors
- Sertoli cell tumors
Next Topic: Testicular Cancer Risk Factors