Treatment for Testicular Cancer

Treatment for testicular cancer depends on the stage of the disease. Surgery to remove the testicle is sometimes combined with radiation and/or chemotherapy. Some men with testicular cancer choose to store frozen sperm in a sperm bank before undergoing treatment to ensure fertility.

Testicular Cancer Surgery

Radical inguinal orchiectomy is the surgical removal of the testicle and the spermatic cord through an incision in the groin. Surgery is performed under general or regional anesthesia and takes approximately 1 hour. Most men remain in the hospital overnight.

If CT scan indicates that testicular cancer has metastasized to the lymph nodes, retroperitoneal lymph node dissection is often performed. All of the lymph nodes connected to the affected testicle are removed in this procedure.

Retroperitoneal lymph node dissection is performed under general anesthesia, requires a large incision, and usually takes 4 to 6 hours. The procedure may be done at a later date.

Complications associated with surgery include the following:

  • Adverse reaction to anesthesia
  • Bowel obstruction and inactivity
  • Damage to surrounding organs, blood vessels, and nerves
  • Infection
  • Infertility (caused by nerve damage that results in retrograde ejaculation)
  • Lymph-filled cyst (lymphocele)

Following surgery, men are usually encouraged to get up as soon as possible. Pain at the incision site and numbness in the area surrounding the incision are common, and pain relievers are often prescribed. Driving and heavy lifting should be avoided for a several weeks.

Men who have had an orchiectomy may choose to have a testicular prosthesis surgically implanted into the scrotum. The prosthesis is filled with saline and is made to look and feel natural.

Radiation to Treat Testicular Cancer

Radiation uses high energy x-rays to destroy cancer cells. In testicular seminoma, external beam radiation (from a machine outside of the body) is primarily used after orchiectomy (called adjuvant therapy) to destroy cancer cells that have spread (metastasized) to lymph nodes.

Testicular seminoma typically requires a lower dose of radiation than other types of cancer. During treatment, a shield is placed over the remaining testicle to preserve fertility.

Side effects of radiation include the following:

  • Diarrhea
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea
  • Skin irritation that resembles sunburn

Chemotherapy to Treat Testicular Cancer

Chemotherapy is a systemic cancer treatment (i.e., circulates throughout the body via the bloodstream) that uses toxic drugs to destroy cancer cells. In testicular cancer cases, it is used to destroy cancer cells that remain after surgery. Chemotherapy may be administered intravenously (IV), taken in pill form, or injected into muscle.

Drugs used alone or in combination to treat testicular cancer include the following:

  • Cisplatin (Platinol)
  • Vinblastine (Velban)
  • Bleomycin (Blenoxane)
  • Cyclophosphamide (Neosar)
  • Etoposide (Etopophos)
  • Ifosfamide (Ifex)

Side effects of chemotherapy are often severe and include gastrointestinal disturbances, low blood count, skin disorders, and neurological disorders.

Testicular Cancer Prognosis

Prognosis for testicular cancer depends on the stage of the disease at diagnosis. More than 95 percent of cases are treated successfully.

Testicular Cancer Prevention

Testicular cancer cannot be prevented.

Publication Review By: Stanley J. Swierzewski, III, M.D.

Published: 14 Jun 1998

Last Modified: 06 Oct 2015