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Radiation therapy uses high-energy rays or particles 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 in patients with seminomas. It can also be used to treat cancer spread in the brain or spinal cord in patients with any kind of testicular cancer.

Radiation for testicular cancer uses focused beams 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 beams 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.

Possible side effects

Common short term side effects include:

  • Tiredness (fatigue)
  • Nausea
  • Skin changes, like redness or blistering and peeling
  • Diarrhea (if radiation is aimed at the lymph nodes in the back of the abdomen)
  • Hair loss (if radiation is aimed at the brain)

More information on radiation therapy can be found in the Radiation section of our website, or in Understanding Radiation Therapy: A Guide for Patients and Families

Last Medical Review: 01/20/2015
Last Revised: 02/12/2016