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What is it?

Testicular cancer is an abnormal, uncontrolled growth of cells that form a tumour in one or both testes. Men 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. The testicles are responsible for producing sperm and male hormones (mainly testosterone).

Testicular cancer is the most common cancer in males between 15 and 34 years of age. About 700 men are diagnosed with testicular cancer in Australia each year. Caucasian males are at a greater risk than are those of African, Hispanic, or Asian descent, although the cause for this additional risk is not known. Other risk factors include undescended testicles (cryptorchidism), abnormal development of the testes (gonadal dysgenesis), a sex chromosome disorder, Klinefelter’s syndrome, and a family or personal history of testicular cancer.

Germ cell tumours account for about 90 per cent of testicular cancers. They are separated into seminomas and non-seminomas. Seminomas make up about half of testicular germ cell tumours, occurring with a peak incidence at 35 years. They tend to grow very slowly and usually do not metastasise. Non-seminomas occur earlier in life. They mainly affect men in their 20’s and tend to be more aggressive. About 5% of all people who have a testiclular germ cell tumour on one side will also have a tumour on the other side.

About 4-5% of all (and 20% of children’s) testicular cancers form in the stromal tissues that support the testes and produce hormones. These tumours (Leydig cell, Sertoli cell and granulosa cell) may secrete oestradiol, a form of the female hormone oestrogen, resulting in breast tissue development (gynaecomastia).

Testicular cancer, even if metastatic, is one of the most curable forms of cancer, with a cure rate in excess of 90%. Most types will spread if left unchecked, first invading and damaging the other testicle before metastasising to lymph nodes and other body organs, such as the lungs. Early detection and treatment is crucial to a favourable outcome.

Last Review Date: March 16, 2017

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