Tests to Diagnose Testicular Cancer

History and Physical Exam: Your healthcare provider will start off by assessing your risk factors for testicular cancer and symptoms related to this disease.  Then, a thorough physical exam will be completed to assess the testicles for signs of swelling, tenderness, or lumps.  The abdomen will be assessed for enlarged lymph nodes that can be a sign that the cancer has spread.

Ultrasound: A procedure in which sound waves are used to take pictures of internal organs.  A testicular ultrasound will be performed to determine if a lump is solid or filled with fluid. If the lump is solid, then it is more likely to be cancer.

Serum Tumor Markers: A procedure in which a sample of blood is examined to measure the amounts of certain substances released into the blood by organs, tissues, or tumor cells in the body. Certain substances are linked to specific types of cancer when found in increased levels in the blood. These substances are called tumor markers.

The following 3 tumor markers are used to detect testicular cancer:

1. Alpha-feto protein (AFP)

2. Beta-human chorionic gonadotropin (β-hCG)

3. Lactate dehydrogenase (LDH)

Tumor marker levels are measured before radical inguinal orchiectomy and biopsy to help diagnose testicular cancer.  They are also monitored after the procedure to assess if all of the cancer has been removed or if more treatment is necessary.

Radical inguinal orchiectomy and biopsy: A procedure to remove the entire testicle through an incision in the groin. A tissue sample from the testicle is then sent to the lab and viewed under a microscope to check for cancer cells. If cancer is found, the cell type is determined in order to help plan treatment.  The two possible cell types for testicular cancer are seminoma or nonseminoma.