Causes and Diagnoses

Causes and Diagnoses of Testicular Cancer

While the exact cause of testis cancer is unknown, certain factors are associated with testis cancer.

Risk factors include:

  • Age: Most cancers occur in men after puberty and before 40, but a second group of men between 50 and 60 are also at risk for testis cancer.
  • Smoking: Smoking marijuana may increase the risk of testis cancer.

  • Family history: There appears to be a genetic component to testis cancer.

Early Detection

We do not currently screen for testis cancer, but men should perform self-exams in order to get to know the texture and firmness of their testicles. Self-exams are the most common way testicular masses are discovered. If you feel something that seems abnormal for you, see your doctor.


The diagnosis of testicular cancer can only occur after the testis is removed. Prior to surgery, the following procedures usually occur:

  • Scrotal ultrasound: To better evaluate the mass. This is a non-invasive test to better visualize the firmness in the testicle.
  • Blood work: Done to assess for high levels of testis cancer tumor markers, including alpha-fetoprotein (AFP), beta human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG), and lactate dehydrogenase (LDH) Elevated levels of these markers strongly suggests testis cancer. However, it should be noted that when these markers are not present, cancer cannot be ruled out.
  • CT Scan: If a cancer is identified, a CT scan is performed to determine if the cancer has spread.
  • Sperm-banking: Men undergoing testis removal are referred for a fertility preservation consultation with the Northwestern Medicine Urology Department at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. Patients will review fertility preservation options based on the patient’s condition, fertility goals and financial resources.