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What to Know About Radiation for Testicular Cancer

Radiation therapy kills cancer cells by directing a strong beam of high-energy rays (X-rays, gamma rays, or other particles) at your cancer. You see a radiation oncologist for this treatment. This doctor specializes in the use of radiation to kill cancer cells. The doctor decides how often you need radiation and at what dose.

Who needs radiation for testicular cancer

Whether or not your doctor decides to give you radiation depends on these factors:

  • The type of your cancer

  • The stage of your cancer

  • The location of your tumor

Your doctor may use radiation after your surgery to make sure all the cancer cells are gone. Doctors use radiation to treat some seminoma testicular cancers. Doctors do not usually treat nonseminoma testicular cancer with radiation because it does not work as well.

What happens during radiation treatment

This therapy is often used to kill cancer cells that have spread to your lymph nodes. Radiation therapy is a local therapy. This means it only kills cancer cells in the treated area. Lower doses of radiation may be used to treat testicular cancer than to treat other cancers.

Men who get radiation for testicular cancer typically will go to the hospital or clinic five days a week for up to five or six weeks, on average. The treatment lasts only a couple of minutes and is painless. It is like getting an X-ray. You may wear a protective device over your healthy testicle to help preserve your fertility.

Potential side effects from radiation therapy

Radiation affects both normal cells and cancer cells. This means it can cause side effects. Your radiation oncologist will explain the possible side effects of radiation therapy.

One common side effect is fatigue. This usually happens after you have had a few treatments. You may also feel more tired than usual for some time after your radiation treatments are done.

You may have nausea or loose bowel movements during your treatment. Sometimes, your skin becomes dry, tender, and itchy in the treated area. Toward the end of treatment, your skin may look red. You could lose your hair in the area treated with radiation. The effects of radiation therapy on the skin are temporary. The area heals when your treatment is over. 

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