Testicular Cancer Screening (PDQ®)
What is screening?
Screening is looking for cancer before a person has any symptoms. This can help find cancer at an early stage. When abnormal tissue or cancer is found early, it may be easier to treat. By the time symptoms appear, cancer may have begun to spread.
Scientists are trying to better understand which people are more likely to get certain types of cancer. They also study the things we do and the things around us to see if they cause cancer. This information helps doctors recommend who should be screened for cancer, which screening tests should be used, and how often the tests should be done.
It is important to remember that your doctor does not necessarily think you have cancer if he or she suggests a screening test. Screening tests are given when you have no cancer symptoms.
If a screening test result is abnormal, you may need to have more tests done to find out if you have cancer. These are called diagnostic tests.
General Information About Testicular Cancer
The testicles are 2 egg-shaped glands located inside the scrotum (a sac of loose skin that lies directly below the penis). The testicles are held within the scrotum by the spermatic cord, which also contains the vas deferens and vessels and nerves of the testicles.Anatomy of the male reproductive and urinary systems, showing the testicles, prostate, bladder, and other organs.
The testicles are the male sex glands and produce testosterone and sperm. Germ cells within the testicles produce immature sperm that travel through a network of tubules (tiny tubes) and larger tubes into the epididymis (a long coiled tube next to the testicles) where the sperm mature and are stored.
Testicular cancer is very rare, but it is the most common cancer found in men between the ages of 15 and 35.
Although there has been an increase in the number of new cases in the last 40 years, the number of deaths caused by testicular cancer has decreased greatly because of better treatments for it.
Anything that increases the chance of getting a disease is called a risk factor. Having a risk factor does not mean that you will get cancer; not having risk factors doesn't mean that you will not get cancer. People who think they may be at risk should discuss this with their doctor. Risk factors for testicular cancer include the following:
- Having cryptorchidism (an undescended testicle).
- Having testicles that form in an unusual way.
- Being white.
- Having a personal or family history of testicular cancer.
- Having Klinefelter syndrome.
- Having testicular carcinoma in situ.
Testicular Cancer Screening
Some screening tests are used because they have been shown to be helpful both in finding cancers early and in decreasing the chance of dying from these cancers. Other tests are used because they have been shown to find cancer in some people; however, it has not been proven in clinical trials that use of these tests will decrease the risk of dying from cancer.
Scientists study screening tests to find those with the fewest risks and most benefits. Cancer screening trials also are meant to show whether early detection (finding cancer before it causes symptoms) decreases a person's chance of dying from the disease. For some types of cancer, the chance of recovery is better if the disease is found and treated at an early stage.
Information about ongoing clinical trials is available from the NCI Web site.
There is no standard or routine screening test used for early detection of testicular cancer. Most often, testicular cancer is first found by men themselves, either by chance or during self-exam. Sometimes the cancer is found by a doctor during a routine physical exam. No studies have been done to find out if testicular self-exams or regular exams by a doctor would decrease the risk of dying from this disease.
Routine screening probably would not decrease the risk of dying from testicular cancer, partly because it can usually be cured at any stage. However, finding testicular cancer early may make it easier to treat. Less chemotherapy and surgery may be needed, resulting in fewer side effects.
Men who have already had testicular cancer have a higher risk of developing a tumor in the other testicle or in other parts of the body. There is an increased risk of second cancers for at least 35 years after treatment for testicular cancer. Lifelong follow-up exams are very important for men who have been treated for testicular cancer.