Key Points about Seminoma
- Seminoma is a type of testicular cancer that is usually slow-growing and fairly treatable. There are two types of testicular cancer, seminomas and nonseminomas.
- Doctors use imaging tests, blood tests and physical exams to diagnose seminoma.
- Treatment for seminoma may involve surgery, chemotherapy and/or radiation.
Seminoma is a germ cell tumor, which is the most common type of testicular cancer. Testicular cancer is cancer that starts in the testicles - the male reproductive glands located in the scrotum. In most cases, seminoma is slow-growing and highly curable. It is found in the testes but can spread to the lymph nodes. There are two main types of testicular seminoma:
- Classic seminoma - the most common type, classic seminoma, typically affects men between the ages of 25 and 45.
- Spermatocytic seminoma - this type usually affects men over age 50 and accounts for only 5% of all seminoma cases. This type grows slowly and is less likely to spread to other areas of the body than classic seminoma.
In a male baby, germ cells typically develop into sperm-producing cells. When they don’t mature within the testicle, they can grow out of control and not develop into sperm-producing cells; instead, they form seminoma or another type of testicular cancer called nonseminoma.
Seminoma risk factors
There are certain factors that may increase your risk for developing seminoma, including:
- Being born with an abnormal chromosomal pattern
- Being Caucasian (white)
- Being tall
- Having a low birth weight
- Having a personal or family history of testicular cancer
- Having cryptorchidism (when one or both testicles do not descend into the scrotum before birth)
- Having Down syndrome
- Having male infertility
In some cases, seminoma may not cause any symptoms. When they do occur, signs and symptoms of seminoma can include:
- Achy feeling in a testicle
- Back pain
- Growth or tenderness of a breast (due to unusual hormone secretion)
- Mass or nodule in a testicle
- Painless lump in a testicle
- Swelling in a testicle
Your oncologist may use one or more of the following tests to diagnose seminoma:
- Physical exam - your doctor will perform a complete physical exam – including asking questions about your health history and related risk factors. Your doctor checks your testicles for unusual lumps, swelling or areas of tenderness.
- Blood tests - your doctor may send a sample of your blood to the laboratory for close analysis. Lab technicians can check your blood for tumor markers (elevated levels of certain proteins).
- Ultrasound - your doctor may order an ultrasound, which is an imaging test that uses sound waves to create detailed images of the inside of your body.
- Other imaging tests - your doctor may use different imaging tests – such as a computerized tomography (CT) scan or X-ray – to help stage the cancer or determine if it has metastasized (spread) to other areas of the body.
- Radical inguinal orchiectomy - this is a surgery to remove the entire testicle containing the tumor. It is examined under a microscope to determine the type of cancer and the stage.
Depending on your personal health history, the extent of your condition and other factors, your oncologist may recommend one or more of the following treatment options:
- Surgery - your oncologist may recommend surgery to remove the cancer cells. This surgery typically involves removing the entire testicle that has the cancerous cells. The testicle is then sent to the lab for close analysis and to determine the stage of cancer. Your doctor uses this information to determine the next steps of your treatment plan.
- Chemotherapy - this treatment involves the use of medications to destroy cancer cells. Oncologists give chemotherapy medication through an oral pill taken by mouth or intravenously (injected into a vein).
- Radiation therapy - in this treatment, your oncologist uses targeted radiation beams to destroy cancer cells. Radiation therapy is often used after surgery to eradicate any cells that couldn’t be removed surgically.
When should I seek care?
If you experience any of these symptoms, start by voicing your concerns and symptoms to your primary care provider. From there, your doctor may suggest seeing an oncologist for more specialized treatment.