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Testicular Cancer

What Are The Side Effects Of Treatment?

Wednesday, April 25, 2012 - 15:16

Contributing Author: Guy Slowik FRCS

Of chief concern to most men, especially young men, is how treatment might affect their sexual or reproductive abilities.

After Surgery

After Radiation Therapy

After Chemotherapy

After Surgery

An operation to remove one testicle:

  • Does not cause impotency
  • Seldom interferes with fertility (the ability to father a child)

Men with one healthy testicle can still:

  • Have a normal erection
  • Produce sperm

Surgery that removes the lymph nodes in more advanced cases does not alter the ability to have an erection or an orgasm. However, the operation can interfere with and/or disrupt the nerve pathways that control ejaculation. When this happens, infertility can result.

Some men can recover the ability to ejaculate without treatment, while others can be helped with medication.

Special surgical techniques called "nerve-sparing" techniques have been developed that may protect a man's ability to ejaculate, or at the least increase the odds of retaining fertility.

With such techniques, ejaculation can be preserved in as many as 80% of cases.

Nice To Know:

  • For men concerned with esthetic appearances, an artificial testicle (prosthesis) can be placed in the scrotum. The prosthesis has the weight and feel of a normal testicle.
  • For those men who want to ensure their ability to father children, sperm storage for later artificial insemination is a viable option.

After Radiation Therapy

Radiation therapy doesn't change the ability to have sex, but it does interfere with sperm production. Usually this is a temporary effect, and most men with one testicle regain their fertility after treatment.

Radiation affects both normal and cancerous cells in the radiated area. The body itself can repair cells and tissues injured by treatment, but during this process men may feel very tired and should try to rest as much as possible.

Some of the other effects of radiation therapy, which can be controlled or alleviated with medication, include

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea

Another effect is a reddening of the skin in the area being treated. Lotions and/or creams to relieve this "sunburn" effect should only be used with the doctor's knowledge and permission.

After Chemotherapy

The different drugs used for cancer therapy can cause various side effects, such as:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Hair loss
  • Lowered resistance to infection
  • Loss of appetite
  • Mouth sores.

To alleviate these side effects, treatment is given in cycles. Treatment periods are alternated with rest periods so the body can recover.

Most men who receive chemotherapy for testicular cancer can continue to function sexually, although (as with radiation) the drugs can interfere with sperm production.

While decreased or absent sperm production is permanent for some men, many others recover their fertility after treatment.

Need To Know:

The Importance of Proper Nutrition

Chemotherapy (and radiation) can often cause appetite loss.

  • Appetite loss can be a serious problem. Good nutrition not only helps in overcoming treatment effects but also aids in rebuilding the body.
  • Doctors and nutritionists can advise on a good nutrition program. In general, it is helpful to try to eat many small meals during the day rather than the traditional three larger meals.

Testicular Cancer