The testicles (also called testes or gonads) are a pair of male sex glands located under the penis in a sac-like pouch called the scrotum. They produce and store sperm and are the main source of male hormones, which control the development of the reproductive organs and secondary (male) sexual characteristics.
Testicular cancer is a disease in which cells become malignant (cancerous) in one or both testicles. Cancer of the testicles is fairly uncommon, but the testicular cancer rate has doubled in American white men since the 1960s, though no reason has been identified. Testicular cancer has a high cure rate.
There are 3 basic types of testicular cancer: Germ Cell Tumors (cancers that start in the cells that make sperm) account for about 95% of testicular cancers and may be 1 of 3 types.
- Nonseminoma tumors, which include embryonal carcinoma, teratomas, yolk sac tumors, and choriocarcinomas (rare but very aggressive), account for about 60% of germ cell tumors. They grow and spread faster than seminomas. A tumor may contain both seminoma and nonseminoma cells.
- Seminoma tumors, which include classic, anaplastic, or spermatocytic seminomas, make up about 40% of germ cell tumors. They are usually slow-growing and respond well to treatment.
- Stromal tumors, which are rare (less than 5% of testicular cancers), occur in the supportive testicular tissue where hormones are produced.
Men with testicular cancer should discuss their concerns about sexual function and fertility with their doctor. It is important to know that men with testicular cancer often have fertility problems even before their cancer is treated. If a man has pre-existing fertility problems, or if he is to have treatment that might lead to infertility, he may want to ask the doctor about sperm banking (freezing sperm before treatment for use in the future). This procedure allows some men to have children even if the treatment causes loss of fertility.