Understanding your diagnosis
After all the tests, your specialist gets a lot of information about your testicular cancer.
This may include:
- the cells it started in (cancer type)
- whether it has spread from where it started (cancer stage)
- whether it is likely to grow quickly or slowly (cancer grade).
Your specialist uses this information to explain how the cancer could affect you in the future (your prognosis), and what your treatment options are. Your specialist may arrange further tests if more information is required.
What you need to know
Types of testicular cancer
Testicular cancer is described by the cells where the cancer starts.
About 95% of testicular cancers start in the cells that make sperm, known as germ cells.
Germ cell testicular cancers are split into 2 main groups:
- non-seminomas – including teratomas, yolk sac tumours, embryonal cell tumours and choriocarcinomas.
There are also rare types of testicular cancer which do not start in germ cells. These include Leydig cell tumours and Sertoli cell tumours.
Testicular cancer stage
The stage of a cancer is how large it is and how far it has spread when it is first diagnosed.
Knowing the stage of a cancer helps doctors to work out the best treatment options. It also means the person with cancer can fully understand their situation and discuss any concerns they have.
The most common staging systems are the TNM and numbered systems.
The TNM system is used to stage many types of cancer and measures three categories:
- T (tumour) – how large the tumour (cancer) is
- N (lymph node) – whether it has spread into any of the surrounding nodes
- M (metastasis) – whether it has spread to other parts of the body and formed secondary cancers.
Testicular cancer staging also uses:
- S (serum tumour markers) – the level of certain substances in the blood, called beta-hCG, LDH and AFP.
Numbered staging system
The numbered system uses the TNM information to give a stage number to the cancer:
- Stage 0 – abnormal cells are present but have not spread from where they started.
- Stage 1 – the cancer has not spread to any lymph nodes or other body areas.
- Stage 2 – the cancer has spread into nearby lymph nodes.
- Stage 3 – the cancer has spread to other areas of the body.
What to ask or talk about
Talking about prognosis
Prognosis means what is likely to happen to you in the future because of your cancer. You may find it hard to talk about prognosis but it can help you make decisions about the treatment and care you want.
Everyone’s cancer is different, and everyone responds differently to treatment. Because of this, doctors can’t tell you exactly what will happen to you. Instead, they can give you the best information they have about what to expect.
Doctors work out prognosis based on statistics. These show what happens in large groups of people with cancer. They cannot predict what will happen to you or any other individual person.
Your specialist will share information about you and your cancer with a multidisciplinary team (MDT) to decide the best treatment options for you.
You may need more than one type of treatment or have a choice of treatments. You may also need to see other specialists during treatment planning.
Dealing with your diagnosis
Getting a cancer diagnosis is very distressing for the person with cancer, and their carers, family and friends. Different people react in different ways. They can be upset and angry or just in shock. Many people find it difficult to take in all the information and understand what it will mean for them.
The situation can be especially difficult for people who get a diagnosis of advanced cancer.
If you need to speak to someone about your diagnosis, you can call the Cancer Council on 13 11 20.