Harvard Men's Health Watch

On call: Second testicular cancers

On call

Second testicular cancers

Q. My 27-year-old son had his left testicle removed to treat testicular cancer. He's doing beautifully, and his doctors are confident that he is cured. We are all delighted, but we worry that he may develop cancer in his right testicle. What are the chances of a second cancer? And what should he do about it?

A. It's a good question. Women with breast cancer are at risk for a tumor in the other breast, and patients who have had colon cancers or malignant melanomas have a higher than average risk of developing additional cancers. It's enough to concern young men with testicular cancer, but a study should help put that worry in perspective.

Using the National Cancer Institute's Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results program (SEER), scientists evaluated 29,515 American men who were diagnosed with testicular cancer between 1973 and 2002. At the time of initial diagnosis, just 175 of the men had tumors in both testicles. And over the years, only 287 of the men developed new cancers in their originally healthy testicles. All in all, the researchers calculated that a man with cancer in one testicle has just a 1.9% chance of developing a tumor in his other testicle during the first 15 years after diagnosis. And since second cancers become less and less common over time, the long-term odds are even better. In addition, the men who developed second cancers enjoyed excellent results from treatment, with a 10-year survival rate of 93%.

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