Testicular Cancer Screening (PDQ®): Screening - Patient Information [NCI]

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Testicular Cancer Screening

What is screening?

Screening is looking for cancer before a person has any symptoms. This can help find cancer at an early stage. When abnormal tissue or cancer is found early, it may be easier to treat. By the time symptoms appear, cancer may have begun to spread.

Scientists are trying to better understand which people are more likely to get certain types of cancer. They also study the things we do and the things around us to see if they cause cancer. This information helps doctors recommend who should be screened for cancer, which screening tests should be used, and how often the tests should be done.

It is important to remember that your doctor does not necessarily think you have cancer if he or she suggests a screening test. Screening tests are given when you have no cancer symptoms.

If a screening test result is abnormal, you may need to have more tests done to find out if you have cancer. These are called diagnostic tests.

General Information About Testicular Cancer

Testicular cancer is a disease in which malignant (cancer) cells form in the tissues of one or both testicles.

The testicles are 2 egg-shaped glands inside the scrotum (a sac of loose skin that lies directly below the penis). The testicles are held within the scrotum by the spermatic cord. The spermatic cord also contains the vas deferens and vessels and nerves of the testicles.
Anatomy of the male reproductive and urinary systems; drawing shows front and side views of ureters, lymph nodes, rectum, bladder, prostate gland, vas deferens, urethra, penis, testicles, seminal vesicle, and ejaculatory duct.
Anatomy of the male reproductive and urinary systems, showing the testicles, prostate, bladder, and other organs.

The testicles are the male sex glands and make testosterone and sperm. Germ cells in the testicles make immature sperm. These sperm travel through a network of tubules (tiny tubes) and larger tubes into the epididymis (a long coiled tube next to the testicles). This is where the sperm mature and are stored.

Almost all testicular cancers start in the germ cells. The two main types of testicular germ cell tumors are seminomas and nonseminomas.

See the PDQ summary on Testicular Cancer Treatment for more information about testicular cancer.

Testicular cancer is the most common cancer in men aged 15 to 34 years.

Testicular cancer is very rare, but it is the most common cancer found in men between the ages of 15 and 34. White men are four times more likely than black men to have testicular cancer

Testicular cancer can usually be cured.

Although the number of new cases of testicular cancer has doubled in the last 40 years, the number of deaths caused by testicular cancer has decreased greatly because of better treatments. Testicular cancer can usually be cured, even in late stages of the disease. (See the PDQ summary on Testicular Cancer Treatment for more information.)

A condition called cryptorchidism (an undescended testicle) is a risk factor for testicular cancer.

Anything that increases the chance of getting a disease is called a risk factor. Having a risk factor does not mean that you will get cancer; not having risk factors doesn't mean that you will not get cancer. Talk to your doctor if you think you may be at risk. Risk factors for testicular cancer include the following:

  • Having cryptorchidism (an undescended testicle).
  • Having a testicle that is not normal, such as a small testicle that does not work the way it should.
  • Having testicular carcinoma in situ.
  • Being white.
  • Having a personal or family history of testicular cancer.
  • Having Klinefelter syndrome.

Men who have cryptorchidism, a testicle that is not normal, or testicular carcinoma in situ have an increased risk of testicular cancer in one or both testicles, and need to be followed closely.

Testicular Cancer Screening

Tests are used to screen for different types of cancer.

Some screening tests are used because they have been shown to be helpful both in finding cancers early and in decreasing the chance of dying from these cancers. Other tests are used because they have been shown to find cancer in some people; however, it has not been proven in clinical trials that use of these tests will decrease the risk of dying from cancer.

Scientists study screening tests to find those with the fewest risks and most benefits. Cancer screening trials also are meant to show whether early detection (finding cancer before it causes symptoms) decreases a person's chance of dying from the disease. For some types of cancer, the chance of recovery is better if the disease is found and treated at an early stage.

Information about ongoing clinical trials is available from the NCI Web site.

There is no standard or routine screening test for testicular cancer.

There is no standard or routine screening test used for early detection of testicular cancer. Most often, testicular cancer is first found by men themselves, either by chance or during self-exam. Sometimes the cancer is found by a doctor during a routine physical exam.

No studies have been done to find out if testicular self-exams, regular exams by a doctor, or other screening tests in men with no symptoms would decrease the risk of dying from this disease. However, routine screening probably would not decrease the risk of dying from testicular cancer. This is partly because testicular cancer can usually be cured at any stage. Finding testicular cancer early may make it easier to treat. Patients who are diagnosed with testicular cancer that has not spread to other parts of the body may need less chemotherapy and surgery, resulting in fewer side effects.

If a lump is found in the testicle by the patient or during a routine physical exam, tests may be done to check for cancer. Some tests have risks, and may cause anxiety.

Changes to This Summary (07 / 19 / 2012)

The PDQ cancer information summaries are reviewed regularly and updated as new information becomes available. This section describes the latest changes made to this summary as of the date above.

Editorial changes were made to this summary.

Questions or Comments About This Summary

If you have questions or comments about this summary, please send them to Cancer.gov through the Web site's Contact Form. We can respond only to email messages written in English.

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About PDQ

PDQ is a comprehensive cancer database available on NCI's Web site.

PDQ is the National Cancer Institute's (NCI's) comprehensive cancer information database. Most of the information contained in PDQ is available online at NCI's Web site. PDQ is provided as a service of the NCI. The NCI is part of the National Institutes of Health, the federal government's focal point for biomedical research.

PDQ contains cancer information summaries.

The PDQ database contains summaries of the latest published information on cancer prevention, detection, genetics, treatment, supportive care, and complementary and alternative medicine. Most summaries are available in two versions. The health professional versions provide detailed information written in technical language. The patient versions are written in easy-to-understand, nontechnical language. Both versions provide current and accurate cancer information.

Images in the PDQ summaries are used with permission of the author(s), artist, and/or publisher for use within the PDQ summaries only. Permission to use images outside the context of PDQ information must be obtained from the owner(s) and cannot be granted by the National Cancer Institute. Information about using the illustrations in the PDQ summaries, along with many other cancer-related images, are available in Visuals Online, a collection of over 2,000 scientific images.

The PDQ cancer information summaries are developed by cancer experts and reviewed regularly.

Editorial Boards made up of experts in oncology and related specialties are responsible for writing and maintaining the cancer information summaries. The summaries are reviewed regularly and changes are made as new information becomes available. The date on each summary ("Date Last Modified") indicates the time of the most recent change.

PDQ also contains information on clinical trials.

A clinical trial is a study to answer a scientific question, such as whether a method of finding cancer earlier can help people to live longer. Trials are based on past studies and what has been learned in the laboratory. Each trial answers certain scientific questions in order to find new and better ways to help cancer patients and those who are at risk for cancer. During screening clinical trials, information is collected about the effects of a new screening method and how well it works. If a clinical trial shows that a new method is better than one currently being used, the new method may become "standard." People who are at high risk for a certain type of cancer may want to think about taking part in a clinical trial.

Listings of clinical trials are included in PDQ and are available online at NCI's Web site. Descriptions of the trials are available in health professional and patient versions. Many cancer doctors who take part in clinical trials are also listed in PDQ. For more information, call the Cancer Information Service 1-800-4-CANCER (1-800-422-6237).

Last Revised: 2012-07-19


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