Conditions InDepth: Testicular Cancer
by Michael Jubinville, MPH
Cancer is a disease in which cells grow in an abnormal way. Normally, the cells divide in a controlled manner. If cells keep dividing when new cells are not needed, a tumor forms.
A tumor can be benign or malignant. A benign tumor is not cancer. It will not spread to other parts of the body. A malignant tumor is cancer. Cancer cells spread and cause damage around them. They can also enter the lymph and blood streams. This makes it easier to spread cancer to other parts of the body.
Normal Anatomy and the Development of Testicular Cancer
The testicles (or testes) are a pair of male sex glands. They are located under the penis in a sac-like pouch called the scrotum. The testicles make hormones (androgens). Androgens control sexual development and sperm production. Immature sperm cells migrate through a network of tiny tubules called the epididymis. Sperm cells are stored and mature in this structure. During ejaculation, sperm cells move through the vas deferens, into the urethra, and out of the body.
Cell division and cell death normal. Changes in hormones can lead to changes in testicular cells and how they work. Signals in the cells tell that tell them when to grow and when to stop may get changed. Normally, the cells only grow enough to replace old or damaged cells. But, damage may cause the abnormal growth of cells known as cancer.
Testicular cancer can start anywhere in the testicles. But, the most common place is in the germ cells that make sperm. Testicular cancer can spread directly to nearby structures, then into the belly. The cancer can also spread to lymph nodes or blood vessels. When it does, it spreads to other parts of the body. The most common sites are to lymph nodes in other parts of the body and the lungs.
Types of Testicular Cancer
There are many types of testicular cancer. They're based the cell type and where the cancer starts. The types are:
Some types of testicular cancers are a mix of different types of cells.
General information about testicular cancer. National Cancer Institute website. Available at: https://www.cancer.gov/types/testicular/patient/testicular-treatment-pdq#link/_1. Updated October 26, 2018. Accessed October 30, 2018.
Testicular cancer. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T907377/Testicular-cancer. Updated July 6, 2018. Accessed October 30, 2018.
Testicular cancer. Merck Manual Professional Version. Available at: https://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/genitourinary-disorders/genitourinary-cancer/testicular-cancer. Updated October 2017. Accessed October 30, 2018.
What is testicular cancer? American Cancer Society website. Available at: https://www.cancer.org/cancer/testicular-cancer/about/what-is-testicular-cancer.html. Updated May 17, 2018. Accessed October 30, 2018.
What is testicular cancer? Urology Care Foundation website. Available at: https://www.urologyhealth.org/urologic-conditions/testicular-cancer. Accessed October 30, 2018.
Last reviewed September 2018 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Mohei Abouzied, MD, FACP
Last Updated: 10/30/2018
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