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Testicular Cancer

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What is testicular cancer?

Testicular cancer is an abnormal, uncontrolled growth of cells that form a tumor in one or both testicles. Males typically have two testicles (testes, gonads) that are located in the scrotum, a pouch of loose skin found below and at the base of the penis. About the size of golf balls, the testicles make sperm and male hormones (mainly testosterone) that regulate the development of sex (reproductive) organs and the adult male maturation process.

Testicular cancer is mostly a disease of young and middle-aged men. About half of testicular cancers occur in men between 20 and 35 years of age, and the average age at diagnosis is 33. According to the American Cancer Society, about 8,800 men are diagnosed with testicular cancer in the United States each year and about 380 men die of it.

Caucasian males are at a greater risk for testicular cancer than are those of African, Hispanic, or Asian descent, although the cause for this additional risk is not known. The risk in Caucasians is 4 to 5 times that of African Americans and more than 3 times that of Asian Americans.

Other risk factors include:

  • Undescended testicles (cryptorchidism)
  • Abnormal development of the testicles (gonadal dysgenesis)
  • History of testicular cancer in a close relative (father, brother)
  • Prior cancer in one testicle
  • HIV infection

Testicular cancer is one of the most treatable forms of cancer, with a 5-year relative survival rate of 99% for localized cancer (that which has not spread beyond the testicle). However, most types can spread if left untreated, invading and damaging the other testicle and spreading to the lymph nodes or vital organs, such as the lungs. Early detection and treatment is crucial to a good outcome.

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