December 21, 2014
Testicular Cancer: Who\

Testicular Cancer: Who's At Risk?

by Berkeley Wellness  |  

Lance Armstrong may have been terrible for the sport of cycling, but he did play an important role in making men aware of the risk of testicular cancer. He knew nothing about this cancer until he was diagnosed with it in 1996. Because of Armstrong, greater public awareness of the disease exists in this country. But many men are still unaware of who is at risk for this form of cancer and how to detect it.

Testicular cancer accounts for just one percent of all cancers in American men, but it comprises 23 percent of all cancers in males age 20 to 34—making it the most common form of cancer among men in this age range.

White males are at highest risk. The testicular cancer rate has more than doubled among white men during the past 40 years, for reasons that aren’t clear.The rate among black men is about one-fifth that of whites, although this rate has also recently begun to increase. Each year there are about 8,300 cases and 350 deaths.

Fortunately, the cure rate is more than 95 percent if the cancer is detected early. If the cancer has spread, the cure rate drops to 80 percent—which is still far better than the cure rate 30 or 40 years ago.

Detecting Testicular Cancer

Cancers detected early have a high likelihood of being cured. Here are some common symptoms to look out for—and bring to your doctor's attention.

The main known risk factor is an undescended or partially undescended testicle (normally, the testes descend soon after birth). Men born with this condition (which is almost always surgically repaired) have three to 17 times the risk of developing testicular cancer—but they account for just 10 percent of all cases. An undescended testicle is easily corrected, but this doesn’t reduce the cancer risk. Boys or men with this condition should be checked by a physician. A family history of testicular cancer also increases the risk.

Despite the increase in the incidence of testicular cancer in the United States since 1973, the mortality rate has dropped by 60 percent because of advances in treatment. The mainstay treatment for testicular cancer is surgical removal of the affected testicle, a procedure that was performed on Armstrong.

Additional treatment depends on how far the cancer has spread and the type of cancerous cells. (There are two basic classifications of testicular tumors, seminomas and nonseminomas; nonseminomas are more aggressive than seminomas.) Because the cancer had spread to other parts of his body, Armstrong also underwent chemotherapy. Removal of one testicle doesn’t affect sexual response or fertility, since one testicle is sufficient, but chemotherapy may reduce fertility, at least temporarily.