What Are the Pros and Cons of Testicular Cancer Chemotherapy?

Erin J. Hill

The primary benefits of testicular cancer chemotherapy are lessened recurrence rates and more effective treatment for more aggressive diseases, although it is not always appropriate for earlier staged cancers because of the potential for extreme side effects. In many cases, testicular cancer is highly treatable, so chemotherapy is not always necessary or recommended. It may become useful in those with progressed cancers, however, or those with additional primary tumors.

Chemotherapy may be used in later stage testicular cancer treatment.
Chemotherapy may be used in later stage testicular cancer treatment.

Most early staged testicular cancers have a high five-year survival rate. For stage one cancer, which is generally confined to the testicles, surgery is the primary treatment of choice. This includes the removal of the tumor, and often one or both testicles are also removed. If both testes are not affected, only one is generally taken. Surgical removal is often the only required treatment in early stages, so testicular cancer chemotherapy is not always needed.

Often treatment of testicular cancer requires the removal of the tumor and one or both of the testicles.
Often treatment of testicular cancer requires the removal of the tumor and one or both of the testicles.

There are cases in which testicular cancer chemotherapy is the optimum choice, however, including in those patients with a more progressed form of disease. Those whose cancer has spread to areas beyond the testicles may require additional treatments to ensure that all cancerous cells are removed.

The main benefit of receiving testicular cancer chemotherapy is that it increases the survival rate for those who have progressed forms of cancer. There several drawbacks, however. Chemotherapy causes severe side effects in many patients, including nausea, vomiting, and anemia. It also weakens the immune system because it kills not only cancerous cells, but healthy ones as well. Testicular cancer chemotherapy is also often expensive in many areas.

There may be long-term effects caused by some chemotherapy drugs. These can include infertility, skin and tissue damage, organ damage, and more rapid aging in some patients. Each person will be affected differently, and newer chemotherapy drugs may cause fewer side effects than some older ones. There is no way to know which patients will be most greatly affected by these drugs, although those with preexisting health problems or the elderly are most at risk.

The benefits and drawbacks to administering testicular cancer chemotherapy should be discussed with each patient before treatment begins. For those who have very progressed cancers, chemo is often the best treatment to increase survival time. Most cases of testicular cancer are treatable, and the survival rates are much higher than for other cancers. The use of chemotherapy may decrease the risk of a recurrence.

Doctors regularly check testicles during physical exams for signs of cancerous tumors.
Doctors regularly check testicles during physical exams for signs of cancerous tumors.

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