Radiation therapy for testicular cancer
Radiation therapy uses high-dose X-rays or other types of radiation to kill cancer cells. Radiation therapy may be used after surgery to keep testicular cancer from coming back. Sometimes radiation therapy is used to treat testicular cancer that has come back.
The type of radiation used to treat testicular cancer is called external beam radiation. The radiation comes from a machine with a high-energy beam aimed at the lymph nodes in your belly and pelvic area.
The dose of radiation and the number of treatments will depend on the type and stage of your cancer. Radiation therapy also is used to treat advanced testicular cancer.
What To Expect After Treatment
Radiation therapy for testicular cancer often causes you to feel weak and a little tired (mild fatigue). Some people have problems with nausea and vomiting or with diarrhea. If you have problems with nausea or vomiting, there are medicines that can help. And if you have diarrhea, you can do some things to help reduce your symptoms. For more information, see:
- Cancer: Home treatment for fatigue.
- Cancer: Home treatment for nausea and vomiting.
- Cancer: Home treatment for diarrhea.
Some people have long-term side effects after radiation therapy, such as infertility, heart disease, or another cancer.
Why It Is Done
Radiation therapy kills cancer cells. In men with early-stage seminoma cancer, radiation therapy is commonly used after surgery to prevent testicular cancer from coming back.
Radiation therapy also may be a choice for older men and for men who cannot have chemotherapy.
How Well It Works
Radiation therapy works very well with seminoma tumors. Nonseminoma tumors do not respond as well to radiation therapy, so they are usually treated in other ways.
Radiation therapy almost always keeps seminoma testicular cancer from coming back. Having radiation therapy after surgery keeps stage I seminoma cancer from coming back in 96 out of 100 men.1 Chemotherapy and watchful waiting have similar results. But radiation therapy is recommended most often for early-stage seminoma cancer.
Radiation therapy for testicular cancer may affect your red blood cells. And it could cause mild anemia. You also may have other side effects from radiation.
Short-term side effects may include:
- Tiredness (mild fatigue).
- Nausea and vomiting.
Home treatment and medicine may help relieve fatigue, nausea and vomiting, or diarrhea. For more information on home treatments, see the What to Expect After the Treatment section of this topic.
Long-term side effects may include:
- Infertility .
- Cancer, either in the remaining testicle or another type of cancer.
- Heart disease, such as heart attack.
Treatments now use lower doses of radiation. And there are new ways to protect your organs during radiation.
What To Think About
Treatment for testicular cancer can affect fertility. Men who may want to have children can save their sperm in a sperm bank. It's a good idea, if possible, to save sperm before having X-rays to check for cancer. This will prevent radiation damage to the sperm.
External radiation may cause the skin in the treated area to look tanned for the weeks after radiation. This change in color may be permanent.
Last Updated: January 26, 2009