Testicular cancer tests
Checking for testicular cancer usually involves a number of tests. The tests you have depend on your specific situation.
Waiting for the test results can be a stressful time. It may help to talk to a friend or family member, a health professional, or call Cancer Council 13 11 20.
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An ultrasound uses soundwaves to create a picture of the testicles and scrotum. This is an accurate way to tell the difference between benign fluid-filled cysts and solid tumours. An ultrasound can show if a tumour is present and how large it is.
The person performing the ultrasound will spread a gel over your scrotum and then move a small device called a transducer over the area. This sends out soundwaves that echo when they meet something solid, such as an organ or a tumour. A computer turns the soundwaves into a picture. An ultrasound scan is painless and takes about 5–10 minutes.
Samples of your blood will be taken to look for tumour markers and to check your general health by seeing how well your kidneys and other organs are working.
Tumour markers are proteins produced by cancer cells. If your blood test results show an increase in the levels of certain tumour markers, you may have testicular cancer.
Tumour markers and testicular cancer
Raised levels of tumour markers are more common in mixed tumours and non-seminoma cancers. However, it is possible to have raised tumour marker levels due to other causes, such as liver disease or blood disease. Some people with testicular cancer don’t have raised tumour marker levels in their blood.
There are 3 common tumour markers measured for testicular cancer:
- alpha-fetoprotein (AFP) – raised in some non-seminoma cancers
- beta human chorionic gonadotropin (beta-hCG) – raised in some non-seminoma and seminoma cancers
- lactate dehydrogenase (LDH) – raised in some non-seminoma and seminoma cancers.
Doctors will use your tumour marker levels to assess the risk of the cancer coming back after surgery and help them plan your treatment. You will also have regular blood tests to monitor tumour marker levels throughout treatment and as part of follow-up appointments.
Tumour marker levels will drop if your treatment is successful, but they will rise if the cancer is active. If this happens, you may need more treatment.
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Dr Benjamin Thomas, Urological Surgeon, The Royal Melbourne Hospital and The University of Melbourne, VIC; A/Prof Ben Tran, Genitourinary Medical Oncologist, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research and The University of Melbourne, VIC; Dr Nari Ahmadi, Urologist and Urological Cancer Surgeon, Chris O’Brien Lifehouse, NSW; Helen Anderson, Genitourinary Cancer Nurse Navigator, Gold Coast University Hospital, QLD; Anita Cox, Youth Cancer – Cancer Nurse Coordinator, Gold Coast University Hospital, QLD; Dr Tom Ferguson, Medical Oncologist, Fiona Stanley Hospital, WA; Dr Leily Gholam Rezaei, Radiation Oncologist, Chris O’Brien Lifehouse and Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, NSW; Dheeraj Jain, Consumer; Amanda Maple, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council SA; Jessica Medd, Senior Clinical Psychologist, Department of Urology, Concord Repatriation General Hospital and Headway Health, NSW.
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