Clinical Review

Testicular Cancer: Diagnosis and Treatment

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Case 1 Continued

Based on the patient’s imaging and biomarker results, the patient undergoes a left radical inguinal orchiectomy. The physician’s operative note mentions that the left testicle was delivered without violation of scrotal integrity. A pathology report shows pure spermatocytic seminoma (unifocal, 1.4 cm size) with negative margins and no evidence of lymphovascular invasion. No lymph nodes are identified in the resection specimen. Post-orchiectomy markers are “negative,” meaning within normal range. After discussions with medical and radiation oncology physicians, the patient opts to pursue active surveillance.

Surgery alone followed by active surveillance is an appropriate option for this patient, as the likelihood of recurrence is low and most recurrences can be subsequently salvaged using treatment options detailed below.

What are the therapeutic options for testicular cancer?

An overview of management for most testicular cancers is presented in Table 3. Note that the actual treatments are significantly more complex and need a comprehensive multidisciplinary consultation (urologic, medical and radiation oncology) at centers with specialized testicular cancer teams, if possible.

Overview of Treatment for Testicular Cancer

Fertility Preservation

All patients initiating treatment for testicular cancer must be offered options for fertility preservation and consultation with a reproductive health team, if available. At the time of diagnosis, approximately 50% patients have some degree of impairment in spermatogenesis, but with effective fertility preservation, successful pregnancy can occur for as many as 30% to 60% of patients.18,19


Radical inguinal orchiectomy with high ligation of the spermatic cord at the level of the internal ring is the procedure of choice for suspected testicular cancer. The goal is to provide a definitive tissue diagnosis and local tumor control with minimal morbidity. It can be performed under general, regional, or local anesthesia. Depending on the complexity and surgical expertise, it can be done in an inpatient or outpatient setting. During the procedure, the testicle is delivered from the scrotum through an incision in the inguinal region and then resected. A testicular prosthesis is usually inserted, with resultant excellent cosmetic and patient satisfaction outcomes.20

Testicular sparing surgery (TSS) has been explored as an alternative to radical orchiectomy but is not considered a standard-of-care option at this time. Small studies have shown evidence for comparable short-term oncologic outcomes in a very select group of patients, generally with solitary tumors < 2 cm in size and solitary testicle. If this is being considered as an option, we recommended obtaining a consultation from a urologist at a high-volume center. For a majority of patients, the value of a TSS is diminished due to excellent anatomic/cosmetic outcomes with a testicular prosthesis implanted during the radical orchiectomy, and resumption of sexual functions by the unaffected contralateral testicle.

Retroperitoneal Lymph Node Dissection

As discussed, conventional cross-sectional imaging has a high false-negative rate for detection of retroperitoneal involvement. General indications for RPLND in various stages and histologies of testicular cancer germ cell tumors are outlined in Table 3. Seminoma tends to most commonly metastasize to retroperitoneum, but RPLND for seminoma is generally reserved for a very small subset of these patients. Patterns of metastases of NSGCT (except choriocarcinoma) are considered to be well-defined. In a series of patients with stage II NSGCTs, left-sided tumors metastasized to the pre- and para-aortic nodes in 88% and 86% of cases, respectively (drainage basin of left testicular vein); and right-sided tumors involved the interaortocaval nodes in 93% of patients.3 Inguinal and pelvic nodal metastases may rarely be seen and should not be used to rule out the diagnosis of testicular cancer.

Choriocarcinoma is an exception to this pattern of retroperitoneal spread, as it tends to have a higher likelihood of hematogenous metastases to distant organs. Compared with NSGCTs, pure seminomas are either localized to the testis (80% of all cases) or limited to the retroperitoneum (an additional 15% of all cases) at presentation.3

Depending on the case and expertise of the surgical team, robotic or open RPLND can be performed.21 Regardless of the approach used, RPLND remains a technically challenging surgery. The retroperitoneal “landing zone” lymph nodes lie in close proximity to, and are often densely adherent to, the abdominal great vessels. Complication rates vary widely in the reported literature, but can be as high as 50%.21-23 As detailed in Table 2, the number and size of involved retroperitoneal lymph nodes have prognostic importance.

In summary, RPLND is considered to be a viable option for a subset of early-stage NSGCT (T1-3, N0-2, M0) and for those with advanced seminoma, NSGCT, or mixed germ cell tumors with post-chemotherapy residual disease.

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