Radiation therapy for testicular cancer
This treatment uses high-energy radiation to kill cancer cells or slow their growth. In testicular cancer, radiation is mainly used to kill cancer cells that have spread to lymph nodes.
Radiation for testicular cancer uses a focused beam from a machine outside the body. The treatment is much like getting an x-ray, but the radiation is stronger. Doctors figure out the exact dose you need. Then they aim the beam very carefully at the cancer to reduce the risk of side effects. Special shields are used to protect the healthy testicle. Each treatment lasts only a few minutes, but the setup time -- getting you into place for treatment -- usually takes longer.
Radiation therapy is mainly used for patients with seminomas since it does not seem to work well for non-seminomas. Sometimes it is used after the testicle has been removed (orchiectomy) and is aimed at the lymph nodes at the back of the belly. This is to kill any tiny bits of cancer in those lymph nodes that can't be seen. It may also be used to treat cancer spread to the brain.
Possible side effects
Radiation therapy can affect nearby healthy tissue along with the cancer cells. It isn't common, but some men get a skin reaction like sunburn. This slowly fades away. Other possible side effects include tiredness (fatigue), nausea, or loose bowels (diarrhea). There is also a very small chance of a new cancer in the future. Radiation can also increase the risk of getting a second cancer (outside of the testicle). This risk was higher in the past when higher doses were used and more tissue was exposed to radiation. To reduce the risk of side effects, doctors carefully figure out the exact dose you need and aim the beam as accurately as they can. Special shields are placed over the other testicle to help preserve fertility.
Last Medical Review: 05/16/2012
Last Revised: 01/28/2013