Research & Education
Radiation therapy, also called radiotherapy, uses high-energy x-rays to kill cancer cells and shrink tumors. Radiation therapy for testicular cancer comes from a machine outside the body (external beam radiation) and is usually aimed at lymph nodes in the abdomen. Radiation therapy is a local therapy; it only affects the cells in the treated areas.
Seminomas, the most common type of testicular cancer, are highly sensitive to radiation and the treatment cycle may be as short as two weeks. Radiation is usually done after surgery and can also be used after chemotherapy if any cancer remains. Even if the cancer returns, it is still very treatable with either radiation or chemotherapy in the majority of cases.
Nonseminomas are less sensitive to radiation, so men with this type of cancer usually do not undergo radiation.
The side effects of radiation therapy depend mainly on the treatment dose. Common side effects include fatigue, skin changes at the site where the treatment is given, loss of appetite, nausea, and diarrhea. Radiation therapy interferes with sperm production, but many patients regain their fertility over a period of 1 to 2 years.