Types of Testicular Cancer

Learn about the types of testicular cancer we treat.

Testicular cancer starts in the male gland known as a testicle or testis, and most commonly affects males ages 15 to 44 years. It’s rare and very treatable.

The testicles are part of the male reproductive system. These two small egg-shaped glands are held in a sac (scrotum) below the penis. The testicles are where sperm mature, and they also make male hormones such as testosterone, which controls male sex drive.

With early diagnosis, testicular cancer can be cured. With treatment, the risk of death from this cancer is small.

What are the types of testicular cancer?

More than 90 percent of testicular cancers start in cells known as germ cells. These are the cells that make sperm. The main types of germ cell tumors (GCTs) in the testicles are either seminomas or non-seminomas:

  • Seminoma: This is the most common cell type of testicular cancer. This type of testicular cancer grows slowly and react well to chemotherapy and radiation therapy. Pure seminomas can raise HCG levels but never AFP levels. In addition to surgery, this type of cancer reacts well to radiation and chemotherapy treatment. Active surveillance (monitoring) is often used for low-stage seminomas.
  • Non-seminomas: There are a few types of non-seminomas, such as choriocarcinoma, embryonal carcinoma, teratoma and yolk sac tumors. These cells grow more quickly and are less responsive to radiation and chemotherapy. Non-seminomas often raise AFP and/or HCG levels. Treatment for this type of cancer can involve surveillance and surgery. Advanced stages may be treated with chemotherapy. Sometimes additional surgery is needed.

There are also rare testicular cancers from cells that support other roles. Leydig cell tumors form from the Leydig cells that make testosterone. Sertoli cell tumors come from the Sertoli cells that support normal sperm growth.

Testicular cancer may involve more than one cell-type. The best treatment will depend on the diagnosis (such as stage and risk of the cancer coming back after treatment) and whether the disease has spread.

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