September 12th to 18th is Male Cancer awareness week. This year the focus is on testicular cancer. Testicular cancer is relatively uncommon but uniquely affects young men from the age of 15 to 49. In the UK 2,300 men are diagnosed with testicular cancer every year. If it is caught, early prognosis is good. In England and Wales, 98% of men diagnosed survive another five years past their diagnosis. Early treatment is key.
Testicular cancer presents itself as a lump or swelling on the testicles, this tends to be the size of a pea or in some cases bigger. It can also present itself as a change in the shape or texture of the testicles. To understand testicular cancer, we first need to understand the testicles.
Inside the testicles, much of the structure is seminiferous tubules as seen in the yellow. Here sperm are made, and as a consequence, there is a high rate of cell division here. This leads to 40 – 45% of testicular cancers taking place here. They are classified as seminomas 1% of these arise from Sertoli cells the cells that are for supporting the developing sperm. A further 1-3% of testicular cancer arises from Leydig cells. These are the cells between the seminiferous tubules that produce androgen and testosterone.
Other non-seminoma testicular cancers include embryonal carcinomas, teratomas, choriocarcinomas, and yolk sac tumours. These tumours arise from the stem cell layer. As embryonal carcinomas originate from this layer they can turn into teratomas where the stem cells differentiate into the wrong line of cells. Choriocarcinoma on the other hand is the most aggressive type of testicular cancer. This is why early detection is key.
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