Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSK) genitourinary oncologist Darren Feldman, MD, and urologic surgeon Richard Matulewicz, MD, MSCI, MS, break down some testicular cancer myths. While this disease kills hundreds of people each year, most people survive testicular cancer.
Myth #1: Testicular cancer is common.
How common is testicular cancer? It’s very rare. It makes up only 1% of all cancers that affect men, says Dr. Feldman, an expert in the disease. (That’s just 1 out of every 100 cases.)
In comparison, prostate cancer is a much more common cancer among people assigned male at birth. It affects 1 out of every 7 men, while testicular cancer affects only 1 out of every 263 men.
Myth #2: Older men are at highest risk for testicular cancer.
Most cancers often affect older people, but testicular cancer does not. People in their teens, 20s, and 30s are more likely to get testicular cancer. It’s the “most common cancer in men between the ages of 15 and 40,” Dr. Feldman says.
Myth #3: Injuring your testicles raises your testicular cancer risk.
“Can being hit in the balls cause testicular cancer?” That’s a common question, and the good news is: “There’s no evidence that trauma leads to testicular cancer,” Dr. Feldman says.
People worry about getting hit by tennis balls, a cell phone in their pocket, using skin creams, horseback riding, and bike riding. None of these things cause testicular cancer. Also, getting “hit in the balls” often is not something that affects fertility.
Testicular cancer expert Dr. Matulewicz notes the main risk factor is being born with something called an undescended testicle. That’s when the testicle does not fully descend into the scrotum before or after birth. The loose skin around the testicles is called the scrotum.
Myth #4: Testicular cancer is hard to treat.
Testicular cancer is very treatable. Out of every 100 cases, more than 95 people are cured. This means it’s not likely testicular cancer will kill you.
Most people survive testicular cancer because the disease often is found early. Even when it’s not diagnosed until a later stage, testicular cancer is highly curable, Dr. Matulewicz says.
Myth #5: Your sex life will suffer if you get testicular cancer.
Most people can enjoy sex and orgasm just as they did before treatment. Only the testicle with cancer is removed during treatment. The other testicle often makes enough testosterone to keep your sex drive and normal erections. If there’s cancer in both testicles and they’re removed, testosterone replacement can help.
What’s more, there’s no shame in talking about it. Being worried about sexual side effects is normal. Many people wonder if they’re the only one thinking that, but these thoughts are very common.
Myth #6: You can’t have children after treatment for testicular cancer.
Testicles make and store sperm, so people worry that testicular cancer will affect their fertility. Often, that’s not true. “You can have normal fertility with 1 testicle,” Dr. Feldman says.
After treatment, your sperm count often goes back to normal, adds Dr. Matulewicz.
Fertility is your ability to have biological children. Some cancer treatments affect fertility in men.
Men who have chemotherapy have a 20% to 30% risk of infertility. That means out of every 100 people who have chemotherapy for testicular cancer, between 20 and 30 become infertile.
MSK recommends banking (storing) sperm before starting chemotherapy. Sperm banking helps you have biological children after treatment, even if you become infertile.
Myth #7: Too much or too little ejaculation causes testicular cancer.
If you wonder whether testicular cancer can be caused by too much or too little ejaculation, you’re not alone. Ejaculation is when semen comes out of your penis after reaching orgasm.
The truth is, testicular cancer is not caused by ejaculating too often, or not often enough. With ejaculation, there’s no healthy or harmful number of times.
Note: This story was originally published in 2016 and updated in 2023.