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.
Learn more about:
- Initial tests
- Surgery to remove the testicle (orchidectomy)
- Further tests
An ultrasound is a painless scan that uses soundwaves to create a picture of your body. This is a very accurate way to tell the difference between fluid-filled cysts and solid tumours. It 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 dense, like an organ or a tumour. A computer creates a picture from these echoes. The scan takes about 5–10 minutes.
Blood tests can check your general health and how well your kidneys and other organs are working. The results of these tests will also help you and your doctors make decisions about your treatment.
Some blood tests look for proteins produced by cancer cells. These proteins are called tumour markers. If your blood test results show an increase in the levels of certain tumour markers, you may have 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 factors, such as liver disease or blood disease. Some people with testicular cancer don’t have raised tumour marker levels in their blood.
There are three common tumour markers measured in tests for testicular cancer. These are:
- 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 this helps them plan your treatment. If the diagnosis of testicular cancer is confirmed after surgery, you will 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
Podcast: Tests and Cancer
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Prof Declan Murphy, Urologist and Director of Genitourinary Oncology, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, VIC; Gregory Bock, Urology Cancer Nurse Coordinator, WA Cancer and Palliative Care Network, North Metropolitan Health Service, WA; A/Prof Nicholas Brook, Senior Consultant Urological Surgeon, Royal Adelaide Hospital and The University of Adelaide, SA; Clinical A/Prof Peter Grimison, Medical Oncologist, Chris O’Brien Lifehouse and The University of Sydney, NSW; Dr Tanya Holt, Senior Radiation Oncologist, Radiation Oncology Princess Alexandra Hospital Raymond Terrace (ROPART), QLD; Brodie Kitson, Consumer; Elizabeth Medhurst, Genitourinary and Stereotactic Ablative Body Radiotherapy (SABR) Nurse Consultant, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, VIC; Rosemary Watson, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council Victoria.
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