Radiation Treatment For Testicular Cancer
Radiation therapy uses high-energy waves or streams of particles called radiation to treat cancer by destroying the cell’s ability to grow and divide. After surgery to remove a cancerous testicle, radiation therapy may be used to treat cancerous tissue that may have spread to lymph nodes that appear normal on CT scan. If the spread is more serious, the radiation therapy may be combined with chemotherapy or chemotherapy may replace the radiation. Radiation is only effective for one specific type of testicular cancer – “pure” seminoma (not a mixture of seminoma with other cell types).
The actual treatment is a simple process using a special x-ray machine and takes only a few minutes. Treatments are typically given five days per week for four to five weeks. Your scrotum, with the remaining testicle, may be placed into a lead device called a “clamshell.” This is designed to protect your other testicle from radiation and, as much as possible, preserve your fertility.
The encouraging aspect of radiation therapy is that – depending on how early the cancer was detected and the extent of its spread throughout the body – the cure rate can be as high as 80-90 percent. In some cases, when chemotherapy is used in combination, cure rates can rise to 98 percent.
Unfortunately, there are some unpleasant side effects caused by radiation. There may be nausea or diarrhea (which may require additional medication), along with being extremely tired, hair loss, and itchy or irritated skin (similar to sunburn).
Radiation is known to cause cancer, and there is an increased risk of other types of cancer in men who have received radiation therapy for testicular cancer. These other cancers typically occur many years after treatment, and the risk is small.
Radiation therapy does not usually affect your ability to have sex. It does, however, interfere with sperm production but the effect is usually temporary, and most patients regain their fertility within a matter of months.