Urology Clinic / Urologic Oncology / Testis Cancer

Testis Cancer

Cancer of the testicle is the most common cancer in men 15 to 35 years old. Men who have an undescended testicle (a testicle that has never moved down into the scrotum) are at higher risk for cancer of the testicle, even if surgery has been done to correct the defect.

For men who are diagnosed with testis cancer, we offer a variety of sophisticated treatments. Our doctors, surgeons, oncologists and radiation oncologists take great care to develop the best possible treatment plan for each patient.

Our surgeons, Drs. Joseph Smith Jr., Michael Cookson, Sam Chang, Rodney Davis and Peter Clark have had years of specialized training and experience in surgery for testis cancer, specifically the retroperitoneal lymph node dissection (RPLND). Our surgeons have performed over a hundred of these procedures. Special emphasis is placed on nerve-sparing techniques. Dr. Bruce Roth and Dr. Jeffrey Sosman supervise the chemotherapy treatment plans for testis cancer patients and are recognized leaders in the treatment of testis cancer. Nursing staff and support services are tailored to each patients needs as well.

Testis Cancer: Treatment

Treatment of cancer of the testicle depends on the stage and cell type of the disease, and the patient's age and overall condition. Most patients can be cured with available treatments. Four kinds of treatment are used:

  • Surgery: Surgery is the first treatment for most stages of cancer of the testicle. A doctor may take out the cancer by removing one or both testicles through an incision (cut) in the groin. This is called a radical inguinal orchiectomy. To avoid spreading the cancer, this procedure should be trusted to experienced urologic surgeons.

    For early stage testis cancer, Stage I or Stage II, the lymph nodes in the abdomen are also often removed. This complicated operation requires experienced surgeons and hospital staff who perform this procedure commonly. Technical skill and experience are essential in treating the cancer while maintaining an excellent quality of life. This procedure is not commonly performed outside of major cancer centers. At Vanderbilt, Drs. Joseph Smith Jr., Michael Cookson, Sam Chang, Rodney Davis and Peter E. Clark have had years of specialized training and experience in this procedure.
  • Radiation therapy: Radiation therapy uses x-rays or other high-energy rays to kill cancer cells and shrink tumors. Radiation therapy for testicular cancer usually comes from a machine outside the body (external-beam radiation).
  • Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy uses drugs to kill cancer cells. Chemotherapy may be taken by pill, or it may be put into the body by a needle in a vein. Chemotherapy is called a systemic treatment because the drugs enter the bloodstream, travel through the body, and can kill cancer cells outside the testicle.
  • Bone marrow transplantation: Bone marrow transplantation is a newer type of treatment. For autologous bone marrow transplant, bone marrow is taken from the patient and treated with drugs to kill any cancer cells. The marrow is then frozen and the patient is then given high-dose chemotherapy with or without radiation therapy to destroy all of the remaining marrow. The marrow that was taken out is then thawed and given back to the patient through a needle in a vein to replace the marrow that was destroyed. This complicated therapy is almost exclusively offered only at major cancer centers such as Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center.