What is testicular cancer?
Men with testicular cancer may experience a variety of symptoms. Usually, an enlarged testicle or a small lump or area of hardness are the first signs of testicular cancer. If you find a lump, enlargement, hardness, pain, or tenderness, it is very important that you immediately go and get an evaluation by your doctor as soon as possible because some symptoms of testicular cancer usually only appear once the cancer has spread to other parts of the body.
If you have been diagnosed with testicular cancer, it’s important that you see a fertility specialist before beginning treatment.
Here are five important points you need to know about testicular cancer and male infertility:
- Testicular cancer often affects men during their reproductive years, when fertility is most crucial
- A man’s testicles manufacture sperm. This means that testicular cancer and testicular cancer treatment may affect sperm health, cause low sperm count, or other male fertility problems
- Radiation and chemotherapy treatment of the testicles may damage a man’s ability to produce sperm. These treatments may cause infertility once cancer treatment ends
- Surgical treatment for testicular cancer may include the removal of one or both testicles. At times, this may lead to infertility
- On the other hand, testicular cancer itself can actually cause low sperm counts for some men. This means that sperm counts may improve, and fertility may return for some men following cancer treatment
What symptoms should I look out for?
- A painless lump or swelling on either testicle. If found early, a testicular tumor may be about the size of a pea or a marble, but it can grow much larger
- Pain, discomfort, or numbness, with or without swelling, in a testicle or the scrotum
- Change in the way a testicle feels or a feeling of heaviness in the scrotum
- One testicle may become firmer than the other testicle. Or testicular cancer may cause the testicle to grow bigger or to become smaller
- Dull ache in the lower abdomen or groin
- Sudden build up of fluid in the scrotum
- Lower back pain, shortness of breath, chest pain, and bloody phlegm can be symptoms of later-stage testicular cancer
- Swelling of one or both legs
- DVT (Deep venous thrombosis)
- Shortness of breath from a blood clot (DVT)
If I have any of these symptoms, does it mean I automatically have cancer?
No, many symptoms of testicular cancer are similar to those caused by non-cancerous conditions, so it is vital that you seek medical attention immediately when you notice anything out of the ordinary.
What are my treatment options?
Removing a testicle:
Most men have cancer in one testicle and it is removed to treat their cancer. For many men, this will not affect their ability to have children. But for some, their remaining testicle might not work so well and this could reduce their fertility.
Removing both testicles:
Some men have cancer in both testicles and this means that both will need to be removed to treat their cancer. Unfortunately, these men will be deemed infertile and won’t be able to father children.
Removing lymph nodes:
It is extremely rare, however, it can happen that the lymph glands in your tummy (abdomen) needs to be removed by surgery to treat non-seminoma cancer. This particular surgery means that most men will not be able to have children through natural intercourse. However, your sperm can be used to fertilise your partner through in vitro fertilization (IVF).
Chemotherapy/Radiotherapy for testicular cancer causes temporary infertility, in most men. Usually fertility goes back to normal some months after treatments ends but for some men, it doesn’t recover, especially after high doses.
So, does this mean that after treatment, I won’t be able to father a child?
Some men are able to father children without assistance after cancer treatment while others become infertile. When it comes to testicular cancer and male fertility, however, the news can be a bit more serious. Men with testicular cancer are often at risk for infertility.
What are my fertility preservation options?
If you are at risk for male infertility following testicular cancer treatment, ask one of our specialists now about fertility preservation. Fertility preservation options for men include freezing and storing sperm in a sperm bank before treatment begins. The fertility preservation process can protect your fertility and ensure that you are able to become a father, even after testicular cancer treatment.
If you have already been diagnosed with testicular cancer and you are not able to preserve your fertility, you have the option of IVF with donor sperm.
Many men live healthy, happy lives following testicular cancer treatment. In fact, testicular cancer treatments are so effective that five-year survival rates for men with testicular cancer are above 95 percent.
What is most important when diagnosed, is to seek treatment, and for you to go on to live a full and healthy life. If preserving your fertility is a priority for you, speak to one of our Fertility Specialists now about our sperm bank and freezing your sperm.