Tackling testicular cancer in Ireland
Date of publishing: 30th May 2018
Tackling testicular cancer in Ireland
Source: Pfizer Ireland
Testicular cancer is a relatively rare form of the cancer, which affects around 170 men in Ireland every year1. Testicular cancers are often (90%-95%) curable even if they are metastatic.
Testicular cancer is relatively rare3, however, the numbers of those being diagnosed with testicular cancer are increasing at an average rate of 2% every year3.
Ireland has made significant improvement in the rates of detection and the outcomes over the past 20 years, as demonstrated in figures released by the Health Service Executive3.
Men are now more likely to be diagnosed, and more likely to survive3.
Testicular cancer prevalence
Ireland’s Cancer Registry has found that testicular cancer cases comprise just 1.5% of all intensive cancers, making it the 15th most common form of the disease in Ireland1.
Testicular cancer is more common in younger men, with three-quarters of cases being experienced by those under 403.
While testicular cancer is rare across all ages, it represents around 30% of the cancers detected in young men aged between 25-393.
Detection, diagnosis and treatment
The causes of testicular cancer are currently unknown4, but it is more common in those with an undescended testicle; those who have had testicular cancer before; those with a family history of cancer and those who have fertility problems1.
The condition is more prevalent among white males than Afro-Caribbean or Asian men5. While distribution of cases across Ireland is relatively even1, the county of Cork has a disproportionately high average number of cases1.
The first and early sign of testicular cancer is most commonly a little ("pea sized") lump on the testis (painless testicular lump)2. GPs play a key role in the initial physical examination; treatment for testicular cancer is much more effective when it is started as soon as possible after the condition is diagnosed6.
In most cases testicular cancer is pathologically diagnosed1 through a combination of methods. These include6:
- Scrotal ultrasounds where high-frequency sound waves are used to produce an image of the inside of the testicle
- Blood tests are used to detect specific markers
- Biopsies are used to analyse the cellular makeup of lumps
Treatment and outcomes
Once diagnosed, outcomes are positive, with just 7 deaths per-year. Survival rates are over 95%, with 10-year survival rates at the same level1. Today, 10% more men survive than they did in 19981.
Patients are treated using a variety of methods, with 5% of patients undergoing radiotherapy; 37% chemotherapy and 94% undergoing surgery to remove the cancerous testicle1.
Campaigns like Movember7 and the work of the Men’s Cancer Alliance are helping to raise awareness among young men about the risks of testicular cancer8 but the message may not be getting through.
A recent study of attitudes and awareness among Northern Irish males aged 18-45 found that 39% were aware that they were in the highest risk group for developing testicular cancer and just 17% had ever heard of self-examination9. The researchers conclude that much more needs to be done to raise awareness of the risks of testicular cancer in young men, and to encourage them to regularly check themselves for lumps9.
Cases are referred through primary care into hospitals6 but researchers at St Vincent’s University Dublin noted that an increasing number of patients were being referred through the ED department10. The researchers claim that this is a ‘reflection of perceived difficulty in accessing outpatient investigation’10.
Given the acknowledged reticence of men to seek health advice12, doctors can play a proactive role in encouraging young men to examine themselves for lumps on a regular basis.
The Irish Cancer Society has produced a series of materials which are freely available for GPs to use to display in practices and share with patients5, 11, 12.
Like all cancers, the sooner it can be detected, the more effective the treatment, and the better the outcome.
(1)National Cancer Registry Ireland. Cancer Fasctsheet: Testis. 2017. (Cited 7.12.2017). Available from: https://www.ncri.ie/sites/ncri/files/factsheets/testis.pdf
(2)https://www.medicinenet.com/10_symptoms_of_testicular_cancer/views.htm. Date accessed 11th May 2018
(2)National Cancer Registry Ireland. Cancer Trends. 2012. (Cited 7.12.2017). Available from: https://www.ncri.ie/sites/ncri/files/pubs/CancerTrendsNo.15-
(4) Cancer Research UK. Risks and causes. 2017. (Cited 7.12.2017). Available from: http://www.cancerresearchuk.org/about-cancer/testicular-cancer/risks-causes
(5)Cancer Ireland. Testicular Cancer – what you should know. 2017. (Cited 7.12.2017). Available from: https://www.cancer.ie/sites/default/files/content-attachments/wysk_testicular_web.pdf
 Health Service Executive. Cancer, testicular. 2017. (Cited 7.12.2017). Available
 Movember. Testicular cancer strikes young. 2017. (Cited 7.12.2017). Available from: https://ie.movember.com/mens-health/testicular-cancer
 Men’s Cancer Alliance. 2017. (Cited 7.12.2017). Available from: http://www.menscancer.ie
 Roy, RK. Casson, K. Attitudes toward testicular cancer and self-examination among Northern Irish males. 2016. (Cited 7.12.2017). Available from: http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/1557988316668131
 Broe, M. et al. Testicular tumour referral patterns: the emergency department has become a common pathway. 2016. (Cited 7.12.2017). Available
 Irish Cancer Society. How to check your testicles. 2017. (Cited 7.12.2017). Available from: https://www.cancer.ie/cancer-information/testicular-cancer/how-to-check-your- testicles#sthash.lS2EBB3O.dpbs
 Irish Cancer Society. Testicular Cancer. 2014. (Cited 7.12.2017). Available from: https://www.cancer.ie/sites/default/files/content- attachments/testicular_cancer_booklet_2014.pdf
Date of Preparation: May 2018