If your doctor suspects you have testicular cancer they will arrange special tests confirm the diagnosis; these tests may also be used to “stage” the cancer. You may have one or more of the following tests.
Scans, X-Rays and Ultrasounds
Imaging studies allow tissues, organs and bones to be looked at in more detail. Using x-rays, ultrasounds, CT scans, MRIs or bone scans, your healthcare team can get a picture of the size of the tumour and see if it has spread.
If your doctor suspects that you have testicular cancer, you may have an ultrasound. An ultrasound examination uses sound waves to make pictures of your testicles and scrotum. The doctor will look for anything abnormal in the pictures.
Blood is taken and studied to see if the different types of blood cells are normal in number and appearance. The results show how well your organs are working and may suggest whether or not you have cancer. Blood tests can also show if there are levels of certain substances in your blood that are higher than normal. Some substances (called tumour markers) are linked to certain types of cancer. For testicular cancer, there are three tumour markers:
- AFP (alpha-fetoprotein)
- b-HCG (beta-human chorionic gonadotropin)
- LDH (lactate dehydrogenase)
Orchiectomy and Biopsy
A biopsy is usually necessary to make a definite diagnosis of cancer. Cells are removed from the body and checked under a microscope. If the cells are cancerous, they may be studied further to see how fast they are growing.
There are many ways to do a biopsy. For testicular cancer, it is usual to remove the entire testicle. This surgery is called an orchiectomy. The surgery is done under a general anaesthetic (you will be unconscious). You can usually go home from the hospital the same day. With the healthy testicle that is left, you’ll still be able to have an erection and you will be able to have children.
Cells from the removed testicle are checked under a microscope. If the cells are cancerous, they may be studied further to see what type of cancer it is and how fast the cells are growing. If the cancer has not spread beyond the testicle, this may be the only treatment you need.
Your doctor may order more tests to find out if the cancer has spread and to help plan your treatment.