When you receive a cancer diagnosis, one of the most difficult challenges you face is deciding which course of treatment to pursue. Deciding on treatment is not easy. You may still be reeling from the diagnosis, and you may be feeling pressure to make a decision soon because you are worried about the progression of your cancer. Each therapy may have positive and negative points that vary and may or may not provide you with the remedy you desire.
Don’t let the situation overwhelm you. Try to focus on the positive. If you have recently been diagnosed with testicular cancer, take heart; testicular cancer has a very high survival rate – greater than 95%. So move forward with confidence, and learn what your treatment options are.
Testicular Cancer Treatment
April is Testicular Cancer Awareness month. Testicular cancer is relatively rare, with one case found in every 270 men. At the same time, it is the most common form of malignant cancer found in men between 15 and 45. The average age for men diagnosed with testicular cancer is 33; most other types of cancer developing later in life.
Symptoms of testicular cancer can include a lump or swelling of a testicle, aching in the lower belly or groin, back pain, or pain or discomfort in either testicle. White men are more likely to develop testicular cancer than African-American, Asian, or Latino men.
The most common treatments for testicular cancer are surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, or a combination of therapies. What is best for you will depend upon the following:
- The type of testicular cancer you have
- The stage of your cancer
- Your overall health
- Your personal preferences
Although this list seems straightforward, it does not mean you can easily develop an ideal treatment regimen. One reason is that the term “testicular cancer” is more descriptive of the location or source of cancer and does not necessarily denote a specific type of cancer.
Testicular cancer is divided into two types, occurring roughly equally: seminomas and nonseminomas. But the analysis does not end there. These are broad categories that can be broken down into several more specific types of cancer, some of which are more aggressive than others. In addition, your testicular cancer may be a combination of the different types. Accordingly, the therapies your doctor recommends will depend on the exact type and stage of cancer you have.
The most common treatment for addressing testicular cancer, and one that has a track record of success, is surgery. Whether you will need additional therapies will depend on your situation. While many people find the thought of surgery unpleasant, it is usually the best course of treatment. It is also common for surgery to be followed up by other treatment therapies, such as radiation and chemotherapy.
Different surgical procedures may be recommended depending on the stage of cancer.
An orchiectomy is a medical term for surgery to remove the testicle. In addition, the spermatic cord is removed, as it is a vessel that can enable cancerous cells to spread to other parts of the body. The cancerous testicle is removed via a groin incision. To preserve the appearance of the scrotum, a prosthetic testicle can replace the removed testicle.
Retroperitoneal Lymph Node Dissection (RPLND)
Your oncologist may recommend a retroperitoneal lymph node dissection (RPLND) when testicular cancer has advanced. When cancer cells spread, they often spread through the lymph system, and one way to prevent the spread of cancer is by removing lymph nodes near the source of cancer.
RPLND is a complex and lengthy operation that goes beyond removing the testicle. The surgeon will make a large incision in the abdomen and remove the lymph nodes at the back of the abdomen. This surgery can be done at the same time as an orchiectomy or in a second surgical procedure. Full recovery may take several months.
While it is possible to perform an RPLND laparoscopically, many doctors do not feel it is as safe and effective for addressing the cancer as traditional open surgery. Accordingly, when an RPLND is performed laparoscopically, your oncologist may recommend that you also undergo chemotherapy.
Long-Term Effects of Surgery
The most common concerns among men regarding surgery are whether it will impact their ability to enjoy sexual intercourse and have children. The good news is that, in most cases, having one testicle removed will not affect either. Depending on the circumstances, sperm banking before surgery may be recommended for men concerned about their ability to father children.
Many seminomas are highly vulnerable to radiation, and it is recommended when cancer may have progressed. Following an orchiectomy, a radiation treatment cycle for testicular cancer is typically two weeks long. When radiation therapy is undertaken in conjunction with surgery, cancer recurrence rates are extremely low.
Many patients will receive chemotherapy in conjunction with testicle removal. In cases where cancer has spread to grow tumors outside the testicle, chemotherapy can last several weeks or more. Patients undergoing chemotherapy may experience side effects such as loss of appetite, nausea, fatigue, and neuropathy. Fortunately, many of these side effects only last during and shortly after chemotherapy treatments, but others may last longer.
What to Expect at Beacon Cancer Care
Over the last several decades, tremendous strides have been made in treating all types of cancers. For testicular cancer patients, the prognosis is generally favorable following appropriate treatment.
At Beacon Cancer Care, our goal is to provide our patients with customized care plans and supportive services designed to offer them the highest quality of life possible both during and after cancer treatment. We offer many supportive services in-house and can help cancer patients with nutrition, rehabilitation, wellness support, and even financial counseling to help our patients navigate the ins and outs of insurance coverage.
As you move through your cancer journey, we know that having the proper support is critical, taking unneeded stress and anxiety out of your life so that you can focus on healing. If you have been diagnosed with cancer, call Beacon Cancer Care or send us a message today to find out how we can help.