Testicular Cancer: Diagnosis
The physician will begin with personal history and a physical examination of the testicles, and if testicular cancer is suspected, may then order the following tests:
Ultrasound This approach uses sound waves to take images of the testicles. The skin is usually lubricated with gel, then a small, microphone-like instrument called a transducer is used to visualize the contents of the scrotum. The transducer emits sound waves and picks up the echoes as they bounce off body tissues. These echoes then appear as a black and white image on a computer screen. This test is painless and does not expose the patient to radiation.
Biopsy While imaging tests provide important information, the only sure way to conform the presence of cancer is to remove the entire testicle surgically. This is the standard approach to diagnose a solid mass in one testicle. There is no functional effect from the loss of one testicle.
Once the diagnosis of testicular cancer is made, further tests will be done to find out if cancer cells have spread within the testicles or to other parts of the body. These tests may include
Chest X-ray A physician may first order a regular x-ray of the area to see if the cancer has spread to the lungs.
CT scan Computed Tomography (CT) scans take many different x-rays to produce detailed, cross-sectional images of your body. A CT scan is often done if the doctor suspects that testicular cancer has spread into the lungs or other organs.
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) MRI scans use radio waves and strong magnets instead of x-rays to take pictures of the body. They map the location, size, and sometimes even the type of tissue contained in a tumor that has spread to another area of the body, and are useful tools for planning biopsies.
A Serum tumor marker test is used to track the patient’s response to treatment or to detect the recurrence of cancer. A blood sample is taken to look for substances released by organs, tissues and tumor cells. Known as tumor markers, these include
- Alpha –fetoprotein (AFP)
- Beta-human chorionic gonadropic (ß-hCG)
- Lactate dehydrogenase (LDH)