Testicular cancer

Testicular cancer is cancer that starts in the testicles (‘balls’), which are a part of the male reproductive system. The testicles, or testes, are located in the scrotum, a bag of skin that holds and helps to protect the testicles. The testicles are responsible for making sperm and are also involved in producing a hormone called testosterone. Testicular cancer happens when cells in the testicles grow in a way that’s not normal.

Testicular cancer can develop at any age, although it is more common in younger men aged 25-40 years old than in other age groups.

Testicular cancer is considered by our mob as Men’s Business.  

  • It’s important to keep on the lookout for any changes or symptoms in the testicles. The earlier testicular cancer is found, the better. There are a number of symptoms to look out for: 

    • a painless lump or swelling in either testicle
    • a change in how the testicle feels, including one testicle feeling bigger or heavier than the other
    • an ache in the lower belly area, lower back or groin
    • a sudden build-up of fluid in the scrotum
    • pain or discomfort in a testicle or in the scrotum.

    Other things can cause these symptoms, not just testicular cancer. But if you notice any of these, yarn with your doctor. 

    If you have any of these problems, or are worried about something else, yarn with your doctor, nurse or Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health worker.

  • You won’t know if you have testicular cancer until your doctor has yarned with you, completed a physical examination and done some tests. The tests might include: 

    • blood tests, especially to look for tumour markers  
    • imaging tests such as an ultrasound, CT scan or MRI scan to see what your insides looks like 
    • a biopsy, where the doctor takes a tiny bit of from the tumour and looks at it with a microscope.

    Having these symptoms may not mean you have cancer, but it is important to check.

    If you have any of these problems or are worried about something that’s new or different in your body, have a yarn with your doctor, nurse or Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander health worker.

  • If you have testicular cancer, you might be told it’s at a certain stage. This describes whether or not it has spread to other parts of the body, and how far. Knowing the stage of your cancer helps you and your doctors to decide on the best treatment for you. 

    • Stage 1: The cancer is only in the testicle and has not spread to lymph nodes. 
    • Stage 2: The cancer is in the testicle and has spread to lymph nodes in the belly.
    • Stage 3: The cancer has spread beyond the lymph nodes to other parts of the body such as distant lymph nodes or the lungs. 

    With all types of testicular cancer, there are options of treatment and support that can help you. 

  • Testicular cancer can be treated in a few different ways. In many cases surgery may be offered to remove the affected testicle. Other treatments include radiotherapy, chemotherapy or a combination of treatments. 

    Your doctors will yarn with you about what treatments they recommend and what your options are best for you. 

    Yarn with your doctor, nurse or Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander health worker about which treatment you might have and any traditional healing, bush medicines, Men’s Business or cultural practices you want to include in your treatment plan. 



    Surgery is a procedure done to remove the cancer and help to stop it from spreading to other parts of the body. Surgery for testicular cancer is called an orchiectomy, where the affected testicle is removed. Sometimes, your surgeon may need to do a more surgery to remove lymph nodes in the abdomen. Surgery involves staying in hospital and having an anaesthetic and an operation. 

    There are different types of surgery, and how you will feel afterwards depends on what type you have. 

    Your fertility (ability to have children) may be affected due to the surgery, but there are ways to help with this, such as sperm banking – see Fertility section below. 

    The doctor will yarn with you beforehand about what is going to happen. Yarn with your doctor, nurse, Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander health worker. If you need to travel away from home to have surgery, assistance is available for travel and accommodation for you and your family.

    Read more about surgery.



    Radiotherapy, or radiation therapy, uses X-rays to destroy cancer cells in one part of your body.

    It is used for some types of testicular cancer. It can also be used where testicular cancer has spread to distant sites. 

    Men having this radiotherapy have it 5 days a week for 2-4 weeks, and each session takes around 15 minutes. But it might be different for you.

    You can only have radiotherapy in cities and some big towns – see this list. If your doctor thinks radiotherapy would help, and you don’t live near a radiotherapy site, assistance is available for travel and accommodation for you and your family.

    Other men have radiotherapy from the inside. Little capsules are put in your bladder. They give off radiation, hoping to kill the cancer.

    Yarn with your doctor, nurse, Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander Health Worker or social worker. 

    Read more about radiotherapy



    Chemotherapy or “chemo”, involves you taking strong drugs to kill the cancer cells. Chemo is used in testicular cancer to treat cancer if it has spread beyond the testicles. It is also used if the blood tests show it is needed after surgery.  This can help to guide how much chemotherapy to use. 

    Many people have chemo in cycles – usually one day or a few days every 3 or 4 weeks, but this might be different for you. 

    Most chemo comes as injections into your arm or hand that drip in over an hour or two. You usually need to go to a hospital or clinic. But you don’t need to stay in hospital for chemo. Some chemo may be given in a pump over a few days that you can take home with you. Some chemo comes as tablets. If you’re having chemo, your doctor will tell you exactly how it will work for you.

    Chemo can make people feel sick for a while, but there are things they can do and take to help. Mob who have had chemo say that spending time on Country, Men’s business, bush medicines and cultural practices help with the symptoms of chemo.

    Yarn with your doctor, nurse or Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander Health Worker. And read more about chemotherapy and side effects.

  • It is important for you to understand why you are getting the treatment your doctors chooses and how it is supposed to help you. Different treatments try to do different things. It depends on what cancer you have, and whether it has spread, and where you live, and what you want. Ask your doctor or specialist if the treatment they suggest:

    • is meant to cure you, by getting rid of the cancer and stopping it spreading, or
    • won’t cure you, but is meant to make you feel better, or prolong your life. 

    Your doctors will yarn with you and explain this. You can yarn with them and tell them what you think, and what you want. Some people will want to try everything possible to stay alive. Others want simpler treatments, or don’t want to leave Country for treatment, or don’t want any treatment. It’s your choice. You can also talk to another doctor to help you decide.

  • Certain treatments for testicular cancer can cause infertility (inability to have children). This may be permanent. If you are worried about your ability to have children in the future, yarn with your doctor, nurse or Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander health worker. You may be referred to sperm banking before you have treatment

  • It can take time to decide about treatment. There are usually some options to hear about and choices to make. You can read about treatment.

    It can be helpful to write things down, or have someone else come to appointments to help remember information.

    Yarn with your doctor, specialist, nurse or Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander health worker. Mob who have been diagnosed with cancer say that yarning with trusted family and friends, Elders and counsellors also helps making decisions about cancer treatment.

    Read more about treatment.


  • Always ask about the cost of treatment. Many treatments are free through public hospitals, but some are not. Ask your doctor, nurse or Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander health worker.

    Learn more about financial support.

  • It all depends on the type of treatment you’re having. People will have treatment for different durations of time.  

    After treatment is finished, your doctors will keep in touch with you so they can check how you’re going. Your cancer journey gives you an opportunity to build trust and safe relationships with your doctors and medical team that may last for many years.

  • It is not possible to say what causes testicular cancer in an individual man. However, we do know some features that are more common in men who develop testicular cancer. These features are called ”risk factors”. 

    Having one or more risk factors for testicular cancer does not mean that a man will develop testicular cancer. In fact, many men with testicular cancer have no obvious risk factors. 

    Risk factors for testicular cancer:

    • Childhood conditions such as undescended testicle 
    • Having a family history – men who have a father or brother with testicular cancer are more likely to develop it.
    • Abnormal development of the testicles.
  • Clinical trials might be an option for you. Yarn with your doctor to help you decide if taking part is a good option. Read more about clinical trials

    Read more detail on testicular cancer here.

Life with and after cancer


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