6 Myths about Testicular Cancer

Man examining himself.

Testicular cancer is rare and highly treatable.

With advocacy groups such as the Movember Foundation spreading the word about testicular cancer, men have become much more comfortable talking about what can be a delicate topic. In honor of Testicular Cancer Awareness Month, Memorial Sloan Kettering medical oncologists George Bosl and Darren Feldman and social worker David Sarfati break down some of the myths about a cancer that kills hundreds of men every year.

Myth #1: Testicular cancer is common.

Despite testicular cancer’s high profile, it makes up just 1% of all men’s cancers, says Dr. Feldman, an expert in the disease. It affects one in every 263 men over their lifetime, whereas prostate cancer affects one in every seven men.

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Myth #2: Older men are at highest risk for testicular cancer.

Most cancers tend to primarily affect older patients, but testicular cancer is different: It mainly strikes men in their teens, 20s, and 30s. So while it is unusual among all men, “it is the most common cancer in men between the ages of 15 and 40,” Dr. Feldman says.

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Myth #3: Injuring your testicles increases your risk.

“There’s no evidence that trauma leads to testicular cancer,” Dr. Feldman says. Neither do topical creams, horseback riding, or bike riding, for that matter. “I’ve heard everything from getting hit by tennis balls to having a cell phone in your pocket, and all of that is false,” says Dr. Bosl. Indeed, the main risk factors are a family history and being born with something called an undescended testicle, in which the testicle gets stuck in the abdomen instead of descending into the scrotum before birth.

No matter how extensive the disease at diagnosis, the possibility of cure exists.
George J. Bosl Patrick M. Byrne Chair in Clinical Oncology
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Myth #4: Testicular cancer is hard to treat.

Testicular cancer is the single most curable solid cancer, with a cure rate of more than 95%, says Dr. Feldman. It’s frequently caught early, but even if discovered at a later stage, this type of cancer is highly curable. “No matter how extensive the disease at diagnosis, the possibility of cure exists,” Dr. Bosl says.

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Myth #5: Your sex life will suffer if you get testicular cancer.

Most patients can enjoy sex and orgasm just as they did before treatment, assure Drs. Feldman and Bosl. That’s because only the affected testicle is removed during treatment, and the other testicle makes enough testosterone to maintain sex drive and normal erections. Even if there is cancer in both testicles and they both have to be removed, testosterone replacement can get men feeling back to normal.

What’s more, there’s no shame in talking about it. Having concerns about sexual side effects is completely understandable. “A lot of people think, Am I the only person who’s thinking that?” says Mr. Sarfati, who regularly sees testicular patients. “We validate what they’re saying and normalize that this is completely appropriate.”

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Myth #6: You can’t have children after treatment.

Testicular Cancer Diagnosis
Learn how a physical exam, blood and imaging tests, and surgery can help in diagnosing testicular cancer.
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Because sperm is made in the testicles, many men of childbearing age may worry that testicular cancer will impact their fertility. But that’s not true for the vast majority of men. “You can have normal fertility with one testicle,” Dr. Feldman says. A patient’s sperm count usually returns to its baseline normal post-treatment, adds Dr. Bosl. While there is a 20 to 30% risk of infertility in men who receive chemotherapy, they can bank their sperm before starting, which gives them the opportunity to have children after treatment even if they become infertile. 

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Commenting is disabled for this blog post.

Your 6 myths are indeed common beliefs among the public. Thank you for clearing the record on this important topic.

Berdj, we are glad to know that this information was helpful to you. Thank you for your comment.

I am not agree with myth 3.I had testicular cancer,I don't know how I "got it" but when I was at hospital,so many guys,football players "got it" because trauma in sport.After trauma testicle started to grow.
I would like I am wrong.

Dear Patrick, we sent your inquiry to Dr. Bosl and he responded:

“Thank you for your important question. My patients have the same concern and the question about trauma as a cause of testicular cancer has been asked for decades. Many studies have sought as association between the two and failed to find one. Testicular cancer is a disease of young men who are often involved in sports activities. Hence, scrotal trauma is a common occurrence and probably happens to all men at some time. Moreover, most patients do not have a history of trauma. Scrotal trauma will not cause the cancer. Rather, acute trauma often brings a testicular abnormality to the attention of the patient because it leads to swelling and pain in the testis. In turn, this causes patients to visit a physician. Hence, the myth persists.”

We hope this is helpful. Thank you for reaching out to us.

I am a patient of Dr. Bosl's for 20 years. I asked the same question. His response was that despite the groin trauma I received from an errant kick during a basketball game, that did not cause my cancer. The cancer gene just turned itself on. It was that simple in my case.

Dear Steve, thanks for sharing your experience on our blog. Wishing you all our best.

My son had undistended testicle at birth @4months surgery brought down ,8,yrs later ,after his shower I knew something wrong ,sure enough 8yrs pediatrition never picked up on it ,had another surgery stunted growth then tells us possibly he could get cancer because it was in wrong climate he’s now 18. ,how do you know ?single mother too old for me to ask questions /thank you

Dear Tracey, we’re sorry to hear your son has been through this. We recommend that you discuss your concerns with his doctor, or encourage him to discuss them himself since he is 18.

Thank you for your comment, and best wishes to both of you.

I'm pretty sure I saw Dr. Bosl in 1985 for the recurrence of my teratocarcinoma. He made the call that I had developed a benign teratoma and that I did not need chemo, just the RLP surgery and removal of the tumor. I had undergone the chemo the year before. All the info provided here was exactly my experience, despite the fact that my cancer had spread to my lungs and kidney, I was cured and afterward my wife and I had another daughter. Thanks to Drs. Golby, Bosl, Kampel, Morse and your wonderful nurses. I've had a wonderful life.

Dear Peter, thank you for sharing your experiences. We’re glad to hear you’re doing well. Best wishes to you.

10 years ago while I was still in the Army I dove stomach first into a gravel pile. It felt like someone flicked my right testicle with a hammer. The next day I noticed my teste was solid. I assumed I ruptured it. 2 years after the injury not only was it solid but it grew bigger. I decided to leave the military and refused the exit hernia check. For the next eight years I would go through days that were extremely painful and barely able to walk around, my right teste was still growing. Over the last 2 years it had grown to a size that was ridiculous to walk around with. After 10 years of the wife nagging me to get it checked I did. They told me immediately that I had cancer. I told them about the injury and no one believed me. I had it removed and they still say it is cancer. I can not understand this. They have been pshing Chemo since day 1 even before the removal. The last explanation is that I had cancer before the injury and that the injury exposed it (It has been 10 years!). Is this possible? Thank you.

Dear Rob, we’re sorry to hear about your diagnosis. Although some people fear that injuries can lead to cancer, most experts say this is unlikely. What is more likely is that an injury draws attention to an area, and then a tumor is discovered.

Thank you for your comment and best wishes to you.