Orchid exists to save men’s lives from testicular, prostate and penile cancers through a range of support services, pioneering research and promoting awareness.
Formed in 1996 by former testicular cancer patient, Colin Osborne, Orchid is the only UK registered cancer charity to focus entirely on the male-specific cancers; prostate, penile and testicular. We offer support and information to people affected by or interested in male cancer through a dedicated medical research programme, education and awareness campaigns and a range of support services.
Whether you have been recently diagnosed with a male cancer, are a family member seeking more information or a healthcare professional looking to run an information session, Orchid is here to help.
Professor Jayanta Barua MD, MBChB, FRCSEd, FRCSEd(Urol), FEBU, Dip.MngmntOU
Jayanta is a consultant Urologist BHR Hospitals Essex. His Honorary Title of Professor is currently held from the London South Bank University, as their Visiting Professor in Urlogy.
Professor Thomas Powles MBBS, MD, MRCP
Thomas is a Senior Lecturer in Urology Cancer and Honorary Consultant in Medical Oncology. MRC Senior Clinical Fellow.
Brian is a doctoral student in Counselling Psychology at City University in London. Brian works in a psychology department in the NHS.
Katherine is a Orchid Male Cancer Information Nurse and Senior Research Sister a Barts.
Although still rare compared to other cancers, testicular cancer is the most common cancer in men aged between 15-45 years with just over approximately 2200 new cases a year. However if found at an early stage cure rates of 98% are usually possible. Even when testicular cancer has spread to other areas of the body cure can still be achieved. Recent research has suggested that 96% of all men with testicular cancer should be cured.
Also known as
acorns, baby-makers, back wheels, baubles, bum balls, bum or bang buddies, chestnuts, cods, conkers, cream crackers, doodads, figs, globes, goolies, hairy conkers, heirlooms, jingle berries, knackers, Knob nuts, love apples, love nuts, love spuds, marble halls, meaty bites, nads, nobby halls, nuggets, nutmegs, nuts, plums, pounders, rocks.
Testicular cancer is the most common malignancy in men aged between 15-45 years with just over approximately 2200 new cases a year. It is becoming more common in caucasian men.
Recent research has suggested that men who smoke cannabis on a regular basis and develop testicular cancer may end up with a more aggressive type.
Testosterone is essential to the development of the reproductive organs and other male characteristics such as:
Without enough testosterone a man may lose his sex drive, suffer from fatigue, depression, hot flushes and osteoporosis (thinning of the bones). Keeping fit and avoiding too much fatty fried food, sugar and caffeine all of which can reduce testosterone levels, can keep your testosterone healthy.
You will usually be given the details of a specialist nurse who will act as a point of contact and support. They will be able to discuss your treatment and provide you with the right information.
Plan ahead and involve you family in managing your everyday life while you are having treatment.
Talk to your boss or Human Resources department about needing time off work. They will usually be very supportive.
Always remember that the likelihood is you will be cured.
Once you have had your ultrasound scan you will be reviewed by a urologist who will be able to interpret the results. If testicular cancer is identified or suspected, your doctor will want you to have some further tests to see if there has been any potential spread of the cancer to other parts of the body.
Sometimes if there is a strong suspicion that testicular cancer is present but no definitive proof, a decision may be made to remove the affected testicle. This decision will not be taken lightly but will be in your best interest.
The most common type of testicular cancer is called a seminoma, a slow progressing type of cancer that does not usually spread to other areas of the body. This type of cancer is more common in men between the ages of 25-45, with a peak age of 35 years old.
A rarer type of testicular cancer is called a non-seminoma. It used to be called a teratoma. This tends to affect men between the ages of 15-35, with a peak age of 25 years old.
Both of these tumours are also known as germ cell tumours. About 95% of testicular cancers will be germ cell cancers. Germ in this term means “seed” and refers to the sperm making process. Other tumours (mixed cell tumours) may contain elements of both types of the above.
Once your testicle has been analysed by a histo-pathologist (tissue laboratory specialist), it will be possible to identify the type of testicular cancer that is present and whether there was any evidence that it may have spread beyond the testicle. The results of the tumour markers and CT scan an also be used to determine if other areas of your body have been affected. This is called “staging”. For more information on the stages of testicular cancer please see here.
Cells that the body no longer uses travel along the lymphatic drainage system. Lymph nodes which are found all over your body act as filters and break down the substances which are transported. Cancerous cells can sometimes travel along this system and become deposited in lymph nodes meaning that the cancer has spread. The most common lymph nodes which can be affected by testicular cancer are the ones situated in your groin and back.
Chemotherapy is the use of anti-cancer drugs to destroy cancer cells. They work by disrupting the growth of cancer cells and as they circulate in the blood and can reach cancer cells all over the body. The chemotherapy drugs most commonly used to treat testicular cancer are Carboplatin (as a one off shot for localized testicular cancer which takes about an hour to have) and Cisplatin, Etoposide and Bleomycin (known as BEP) for cancer that has spread beyond the testicle.
A drip will be sited into a vein in your hand, arm or neck and the chemotherapy administered through it. Anti-sickness drugs can be given to you via the drip as well.
While the chemotherapy drugs are acting on the cancer cells in your body, they may also temporarily reduce the number of normal cells in your blood. When these cells are in short supply, you may be more likely to get an infection and to tire easily.
During chemotherapy your blood will be tested regularly to make sure your white blood cells, responsible for fighting infection, and your kidneys are functioning correctly. If necessary, you will be given antibiotics to treat any infection.
Before chemotherapy you will also need to have a hearing test (audiogram) as chemotherapy can affect your hearing as well as a breathing test as some chemotherapy can sometimes affect your lungs. You will also be advised to sperm bank.
Semen (sperm) may contain some residual chemotherapy following treatment and if you plan to have sexual intercourse within 48 hours of finishing your chemotherapy it is advisable to use a condom.
For more information on the types and duration of chemotherapy as well as coping with any side effects please see here.
Retroperitoneal Lymph node Dissection (RPLND) is and operation performed under a general anaesthetic, and can take up to 4 hours. An incision (cut) is made from just below your breastbone to just below your navel (belly button). Your intestines and other organs are gently lifted out of the way so that the lymph nodes at the back of the abdomen can be clearly seen. Lymph nodes on the same side as your affected testicle are first removed followed by any others that look suspicious of containing cancerous cells.
RPLND can affect your fertility, as the operation can damage the nerves that control the discharge of sperm through the penis (ejaculation). If there is a possibility that you may need such surgery, and if you are fit enough to produce sperm samples for storage before treatment starts, some of your sperm can be stored. Although this further surgery may make it more difficult for you to father a child, it will have no physical effect on your ability to get an erection or have an orgasm (see our Testicular Cancer and Fertility information sheet).
Having one testicle removed will not normally affect your ability to have an erection or your fertility. If the cancer has spread to your lymph nodes it is likely these will be removed by surgery. This can sometimes damage the nerves that control ejaculation and may leave you unable to conceive naturally. In these cases you should consider storing your sperm before surgery. Chemotherapy may temporarily cause infertility and for either RPLND or chemotherapy it may be worth considering sperm storage. For more information on testicular cancer and fertility please download this document.
Storing your sperm, also known as sperm banking, is the preservation of your sperm by freezing. The sperm may be used in the future for artificial insemination or other assisted reproduction techniques. Even if you don’t plan to start a family, sperm banking is worth considering in case you change your mind in the future.
Your specialist healthcare team will be able to advise you if the hospital where you are being treated has sperm banking facilities. They can also provide you with information on your local fertility centre where you may be offered the opportunity to bank your sperm.
Your doctor may discuss the insertion of a false (prosthetic) ball to take the place of your old one. These are silicone implants that can be inflated with salt water. They can give a very good cosmetic result and be of great psychological value but some men may experience problems with them at a later date. Some of these possible problems include:
If you are unsure of whether you want an implant or not, the procedure can always be performed at a later date.
Testosterone is the male hormone responsible for sex drive and a feeling of well being. It is produced in the cells of your testicles. If you lose a testicle the remaining one should be able to produce enough testosterone to maintain normal levels in your body. Occasionally this does not occur especially if you have prolonged or further treatment such as chemotherapy. Low testosterone levels can cause symptoms such as tiredness and mood swings which can be difficult to manage without replacement therapy. Usually a simple blood test can be used to measure the testosterone levels in your body and if they remain depleted for some time after your treatment testosterone replacement therapy may be recommended. There are several types of testosterone replacement available in the form of injections, tablets or skin patches. However it may take some time to find the one that works for you.
Your specialist nurse or health care team should be able to give you the details of a hospital based counsellor if you feel you would like to talk to someone. Alternatively your GP may be able to refer you to a counsellor locally.
If you are having chemotherapy, you may be offered the chance to participate in a clinical trial. This does not mean you are a guinea pig for some crazy experiment. Clinical trials are aimed at improving treatment outcomes for cancer. Most of the time they will be using one or more traditionally effective treatments such as chemotherapy in conjunction with each other to try and improve cancer cure rates or reduce the possible side effects of treatment such as chemotherapy. Your oncologist or specialist nurse will discuss these possibilities with you. If you decide to take part in a clinical trial you are free to opt out at any time. For further information on clinical trials that are being used to treat testicular cancer please visit: NHS
“The whole blog idea started as wanting to create a short informative and positive film documenting the situation…. “
Although rare, testicular cancer can reoccur. However even if it does and affects a remaining testicle or other areas of your body there is a good chance that it can sill be cured with additional chemotherapy.
If you have had an orchidectomy for testicular cancer, remember to regularly check your good testicle for any abnormalities.
Publications that are available from Orchid:
Testicular Cancer Resource Centre http://tcrc.acor.org/
If you have been affected by any aspect of testicular cancer and wish to tell your own story or provide a self made film clip documenting your experience for our YouTube channel please let us know.