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Different Kinds of Testicular Cancer

There are several kinds of testicular cancer based on what kind of cancer cells are in the tumor.  A pathologist identifies these cells by looking at them under a microscope. It is important to know the kind of cancer a person has in order to know the best way to treat it. Below is a list of different tumor types.

Cancers Starting in the Testicle

Germ Cell Tumors (Over 90% of Testicular Cancer)

These cells are the part of the testicle that produce sperm. Below is a list of different kinds of germ cells where tumors may form:

  • Seminomas: These make up about 50% of germ cell tumors. This tumor would come later in life than other germ cell tumors (25-45 years of age). In most cases, you can feel the tumor on testicular exam.  Less than a fifth of these cases come with testicular pain. It is the most common tumor in individuals with undescended testis.
  • Non-seminomas: This group is made up of every other type of germ cell tumor.  They account for the other 50%. Also, they appear much earlier (late teens to early 30’s). There are four main types: yolk sac, choriocarcinoma, teratoma and embryonal carcinoma.
  • Mixed germ cell tumors: This is a mix of the first two types above. These make up 40% of all germ cell tumors. They are treated as a non-seminoma because their growth and spread pattern is similar to non-seminomatous tumors.
  • Carcinoma in situ: These are masses of odd cells that have not become cancerous.  There is much debate over the best way to manage this, as some physicians prefer to “wait and watch” these tumors while others prefer to treat.

Stromal Tumors

The part of the testicle known as the stroma can also develop tumors. The stroma is the support structure of the testicle.  Some of these cells, called Leydig cells, make male hormones like testosterone.  Other support cells, called Sertoli cells, give nutrients to other testicle cells.  For the most part, when these cells develop cancer, the cancer doesn’t spread to other parts of the body.  When it does, however, the cancer is difficult to treat.

Testicular Cancers Starting Elsewhere in the Body

Sometimes, testicular cancer does not start in the testicles. This is called a secondary tumor. Lymphoma is the most common cause of secondary testicular cancer. It is mostly found in men over 50 years of age. Other causes of secondary testicular cancer include prostate cancer, lung cancer.

For more information:

Go to the Testicular Cancer health topic.