Testicular Cancer

Orchidectomy

When cancer is suspected the best way to confirm the diagnosis is to remove the entire testicle, an operation called an orchidectomy. This is almost always done under general anaesthetic, though can be also be done with an epidural injection. The testicle is removed through an incision in the groin, and then the cells are examined under the microscope. Subsequent treatment will depend on the type of tumour and whether or not it has spread.
Some men were not clearly informed that they would almost certainly lose the entire testicle. Some were admitted to hospital expecting just to have a biopsy or to have the lump removed. This misconception left these men and their families feeling angry and distressed (see 'Talking to doctors').


It is very rare that cancer occurs in both testicles. However, this can happen. One man describes how he had his left testicle and part of his right testicle removed the first time he had surgery. After chemotherapy, and radiotherapy to the right testicle, he eventually had to have the rest of the right testicle removed too.

The operation itself is usually quite straightforward. It was described as no worse than a hernia or minor knee operation. It may be done as a day case, but men usually stay in hospital overnight.

Many of the men were surprised to learn that the testicle would be removed through the groin area. One described the operation in detail. Another man recalled what it was like to have an anaesthetic. He was pleased that the surgeon had spoken to him immediately after the operation, in the recovery room, reassuring him that the operation had gone well.

A few men felt very little discomfort after the operation, and if no more treatment was required, they soon resumed normal activities such as swimming. However, most men experienced some pain and took two or three weeks to fully recover. One man described how he lay on the sofa during the first week after surgery, with his wife 'waiting hand and foot'. Another man explained that he wasn't allowed to lift anything heavy after the operation, and he wasn't allowed to drive for five weeks. Another man recalled that he was off work for two weeks and was driving after just two weeks.

After surgery some men felt that their self-image and feelings of masculinity had been affected, at least for a while (see 'Masculinity and self-image').

Last reviewed December 2014.

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