Testis Cancer

Testicular Cancer: A (Mostly) Young Man’s Disease

Of the many things young men enjoy talking about, testicular cancer isn’t one of them. 

It’s embarrassing. (Maybe.) 

Only older guys need to worry about it. (Nope.) 

Talking about stuff like that is a buzzkill. (NOT talking about it can actually kill you.)

Testicular cancer — primarily a young man’s disease — is the most common type of cancer to occur in males 15 to 35 years old. 

Although testicular cancer is rare, occurring in less than one percent of males in the United States each year, this doesn’t matter if you or someone you love is diagnosed with the disease. But if caught early, testicular cancer has a cure rate of almost 100 percent. This is why talking about it is so important. 

When young men either dismiss their symptoms or are hesitant to talk with their doctor about any change in their testicles, the window for a cure closes quickly. Waiting even a month after symptoms are detected can drastically reduce the possibility of successful treatment. 

But that’s not you. No way. You’ve earned the pole position in this race. Because by increasing your awareness about testicular cancer, you move into the winner’s circle by: 

Being aware of what the symptoms are. 

Being vigilant about self-exams.

Being quick to talk with your doctor if there’s anything that doesn’t feel normal.

A Pit Stop with Nabil Adra, MD

When it comes to winning the race against testicular cancer, IU Simon Comprehensive Cancer Center physician scientist Dr. Nabil Adra is at the front of the pack. Dr. Adra focuses specifically on urologic oncology and the treatment of prostate, testicular, bladder and kidney cancers.

In its early stages, it often feels like a painless testicular mass. But in more advanced cases, when the cancer has spread, symptoms can include abdominal or back pain, a cough or shortness of breath, headaches or blurry vision, or a lump in the neck area.

Currently, there are two forms of screening for testicular cancer: self-exams and physician exams. Ultrasound is very good at confirming cancer. It’s important to speak with your doctor about what your screening plan needs to be.

The most important and the most common risk factor is a condition called cryptorchidism — or what’s often referred to as undescended testicles. It’s crucial that this condition is diagnosed early — preferably before puberty — and reversed. Research has shown that this can reduce the risk of developing testicular cancer. If the reversal isn’t performed, the chance of developing cancer is higher in the undescended testis.

Also, if you’ve had cancer in one testicle, there’s a higher chance of it developing in the other. This is why it’s so important for survivors of testicular cancer to conduct monthly self-exams and to be followed closely by a physician.

Other risk factors include testicular atrophy and hypospadias (urethra located in the wrong position). There is also some evidence that family history might also increase risk factors.

If the disease is caught early and is still in Stage I — which means it hasn’t spread outside of the testicle — the cure rate is close to 100 percent. At Stage II, that rate drops to approximately 90 percent and beyond that the cure rate can drop further. In some advanced cases, testicular cancer can’t be cured. This is why early detection is so important.

If the disease is caught early and is still in Stage I — which means it hasn’t spread outside of the testicle — the cure rate is close to 100 percent.

Typically, a combination of surgery and/or chemotherapy is used to treat testicular cancer. Radiation is rarely used. At IU, our goal is to cure the majority of patients while also causing the least amount of toxic side effects. Patients can be so young and they have many, many years of productive life ahead. So, we try to provide just enough adequate therapy — no more, no less.

Men often underestimate how quickly this cancer can grow. So, they might delay seeking medical care, which can be very dangerous. They need to see a physician as soon as they feel any change in their testicles. There’s nothing to be shy or ashamed about. As men, we need to embrace the idea that this is a type of cancer that happens just like any other kind and we should support each other.

I went into oncology because I wanted to make a difference. I hope that my hard work will have a positive impact on patients now, a decade from now, a century from now. I want to give hope where there wasn’t any before.

Shaping the Future of Testicular Cancer

Indiana University is a champion when it comes to treatment and research for testicular cancer. In fact, we’re a worldwide referral center for this disease and have been extremely active in developing new therapeutics and treatment options. 

Current clinical trials include those: 

  • Studying the use of an oral chemotherapy drug as a maintenance treatment after intensive high-dose chemotherapy.
  • Exploring the efficacy of an oral targeted therapy in treating refractory testicular cancer.

Additionally, researchers here are working to develop new blood tests that can detect microscopic amounts of testicular cancer. Tools such as these would make it possible to detect cancer earlier and help to inform treatment plans. 

It’s this level of innovation and forward-thinking that brings patients from around the world to Indiana University for treatment of testicular cancer. For many, we represent the checkered flag when it comes to putting the disease behind them.

Racing Highlights

  • Larry Einhorn, the Livestrong Foundation Professor of Oncology and professor of medicine at IU School of Medicine and a physician scientist at IU Simon Comprehensive Cancer Center, discovered the cure for testicular cancer in 1974. 
  • Lance Armstrong, seven-time Tour de France winner, was successfully treated for Stage III testicular cancer by Dr. Einhorn at IU.

Please complete the form to access a downloadable version of “Your Racing Strategies for Cancer Prevention and Early Detection.” Take a victory lap when you share it with your family and friends.


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