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Testicular Cancer Diagnosis

If you notice any changes in your testicles, it’s important to contact a health care provider quickly. An internal medicine specialist or urologist can examine you, ask about your medical history and order the tests you may need for a diagnosis. Be honest and open with your concerns.

Trust your instincts, and don’t wait to get care. It’s possible that something other than testicular cancer is causing your symptoms. Getting medical care can bring you peace of mind and lower your anxiety. It may also uncover noncancerous conditions which would still benefit from treatment.

If you are diagnosed with testicular cancer, catching it early can mean you’re more likely to be treated and cured successfully. It can also involve less aggressive treatments and a lower risk of complications, such as cancer spreading to other parts of your body and the need for more invasive treatments such as chemotherapy. Your provider can guide you through diagnosis and treatment options and connect you with support.

How is testicular cancer diagnosed? 

Here are some of the tests your provider might recommend:

  • Medical history: Your provider will ask about your symptoms, risk factors and any changes you’ve noticed.
  • Physical examination: Your provider may check your testicles for any lumps, swelling or changes in texture.
  • Ultrasound: Ultrasound uses painless high-frequency sound waves to create detailed images of the inside of the testicles so your provider can have a closer look at a suspicious area.
  • Blood tests: Blood tests can serve as markers for testicular cancer, such as alpha-fetoprotein (AFP), human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG) and lactate dehydrogenase (LDH). However, some types of testicular cancer don’t cause elevation of these markers. It’s possible to not have these markers and still have cancer.
  • Biopsy: A biopsy is a small tissue sample that can be examined in a lab. It’s rarely needed for testicular cancer, but it could be used in some cases to confirm a diagnosis.
  • CT scan: A computed tomography (CT) scan can look for signs that cancer has spread to nearby lymph nodes or other organs.

Types of testicular cancer  

Most types of testicular cancer start in the cells that produce sperm. These are called germ-cell cancers. There are two types:

  • Seminoma tumors grow more slowly.
  • Non-seminoma tumors grow more quickly. Embryonal carcinoma, yolk sac carcinoma, choriocarcinoma and teratoma are types of non-seminomas.

These types of cancers are treated differently. It’s possible to have both seminoma and non-seminoma tumors. In that case, they are treated as non-seminomas.

Other types of testicular cancer include Leydig cell tumors and Sertoli cell tumors. These are rare.

Cancers that start in other parts of the body and spread to the testicles, such as lymphoma and leukemia, are not considered testicular cancer. These tumors are treated based on where they started.

Stages of testicular cancer 

Testicular cancer stages include:

  • Stage 0 (GNCIS): This is not cancer yet but could become cancer.
  • Stage I (IA, IB, IS): Cancer is found in the testicle but not in lymph nodes or other places in the body.
  • Stage II (IIA, IIB, IIC): Cancer has spread to lymph nodes in the belly but not to other parts of the body.
  • Stage III (IIIA, IIIB, IIIC): Cancer has spread to distant lymph nodes or an organ.

If testicular cancer is diagnosed, your provider will work with you to create an individual treatment plan for the type and stage of cancer you have.

Learn more about testicular cancer treatment and support.