Testicular cancer is rare, but it is the most common cancer in young men. Fortunately, it is almost always treatable - about 97% of testicular cancer patients will survive if it’s treated rapidly. In order to discuss how testicular cancer affects the patient’s sex life, it’s important to first discuss what it is, how to detect it, and how to treat it.
There are no known prevention methods against testicular cancer, so it’s crucial for men to know which symptoms they should look out for in order to start treatment as soon as possible. Some symptoms of testicular cancer include lumps in the testicles, enlarged testicles, aches in the lower abdomen or groin, and sudden swelling around the testicles. If you notice any of the other symptoms, be sure to check in with a doctor as soon as possible.
Similarly to checking for breast lumps, men can and should perform self-exams for testicular bumps at least once a month. The self-exams are quick, so men can easily find time to complete them after showers or while getting ready in the morning. Here are the suggested steps to take:
- Stand in front of a mirror and check for any swelling.
- Relax, support your testicles with your hands, and roll the testicle between your thumb and fingers checking for bumps. You’ll likely feel a cord-like structure at the top of and behind your testicles which is completely normal.
- Look out for any bumps that feel like hard rubber. They can be as small as a grain of rice.
- Check for tenderness.
- If you find any swelling, lumps, or tenderness, consult a doctor.
As stated previously, testicular cancer is, luckily, quite treatable. Depending on what stage the patient is in, there are different options for treatment. These options include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and surveillance. Typically, removal of the testicle with the tumor is the first option. Patients with stage 1 are often just monitored after their surgery. Those with stage 2 are typically treated with radiation therapy or chemotherapy. Lastly, those with stage 3 suffer from the cancer spreading to other parts of the body and undergo combination chemotherapy.
Testicular Cancer & Sex
With cancer located in such a private and sensitive location, it’s completely understandable to be worried or curious about how testicular cancer may affect one’s sex life. These sections will elaborate on how testicular cancer impacts patients’ fertility, erections, and sex drive. For some quick facts on the subject, see the infographic below by the men’s wellness brand, hims.
With the removal of the testicle(s) as the most common treatment, one of the first questions many men have is whether they’ll be able to father children after the surgery. Fortunately, with this treatment option, fertility will almost always return to normal once the cancer has been treated if only one testicle was removed. If both testicles are affected and, therefore, must be removed, the patient will be infertile after surgery. However, before undergoing surgery for testicular cancer, men can preserve their sperm for use in the future if he would like to have children.
As for the effects of chemotherapy, men will likely experience temporary infertility while undergoing treatment. This should return back to normal less than a year after treatment. However, if there is a high dose of chemotherapy being used, it’s possible that he will suffer from infertility permanently afterward. In this case, it’s a good idea to save and preserve the sperm as well.
Lastly, those who undergo radiation therapy should return back to normal a few months after treatment. It should be noted, however, that doctors advise not to attempt to father a child until at least a year after your final radiation treatment as it’s possible that the radiation can affect the sperm and lead to health issues for the child.
Another common worry of men with testicular cancer is whether they’ll struggle with getting an erection. Men who have one testicle removed should not have problems getting erections since their healthy testicle should be able to produce enough testosterone. However, if both testicles are removed, men can undergo testosterone replacement therapy in order to continue getting erections and improve their sex drive. With radiation, it is possible that it can impact nerves and arteries, therefore making it more difficult to get and maintain an erection. Lastly, chemotherapy should not have an effect on a man’s ability to get an erection. Fortunately, there are erectile dysfunction solutions men can look into to help them get and maintain erections.
One more concern men have is whether their sex drive will be affected by testicular cancer or its treatments. If one testicle had to be removed, there typically is no effect on sex drive. As stated previously, if both testicles are removed, testosterone replacement therapy can be done to improve this. During treatment, it is completely normal to experience a loss of sex drive, but, it has been found that sexual satisfaction is still relatively high despite any issues that may occur.
Although there are some potential effects testicular cancer and its treatments may have on men, it’s important to remember that there are a variety of methods to overcome these changes. All men should routinely check for any irregularities associated with testicular cancer and consult their doctor right away if an issue is found.
Henkel, J. (1996). Testicular cancer. FDA Consumer, 30(1), 24.
Steinmehl, E. (2005). what he needs: awareness. Health (Time Inc. Health), 19(2), 64.
Developed by, R. (2013). Testicular Self-Exam. CRS - Adult Health Advisor, 1.
National Cancer Institute. (2018). Treatment Option Overview. https://www.cancer.gov/types/testicular/patient/testicular-treatment-pdq
Cancer Research UK. (2017). Fertility. http://www.cancerresearchuk.org/about-cancer/testicular-cancer/coping/fertility