Research Findings

Testicular Cancer Survivors Face Other Ills

Testicular Cancer Survivors Face Other Ills

Treatment can cause long-term neurological, circulatory problems, study finds

For men with testicular cancer, survival comes at a price: New research suggests that those who recover from the disease face higher risks of long-term illness unrelated to tumors.

“Current patients with testicular cancer should be informed about the risk of short-term and particularly long-term side effects of their highly effective treatment,” said Sophie D. Fossa, a professor at the University of Oslo in Norway and lead author of a study in the November issue of the journal BJUI.

The study found that one in four survivors will develop long-term neurological, hearing and circulatory problems. They are also nearly twice as likely to develop another form of cancer.

But there’s good news, too. As many as four out of five survivors who try to become fathers are successful, the study authors noted.

“Patients can suffer considerable mental distress after having one testicle removed due to cancer, but this gradually decreases with treatment,” Fossa said. “Gastrointestinal side effects are common during both chemotherapy and radiotherapy, and chemotherapy carries added risks like infections and blood clots. Long-term problems include secondary cancers, heart problems, and conditions related to lower hormone levels.”

The researchers reviewed 40 studies published between 1990 and 2008. Among the findings:

  • The drug bleomycin can cause lung problems if used before some types of surgery, especially in men 40 and older.
  • Cisplatin-based chemotherapy can damage nerves in many patients, and one in five survivors suffers from hearing loss and tinnitus, also known as ringing in the ears.
  • The avoidance of mediastinal radiotherapy has reduced the likelihood of long-lasting heart problems. But infra-diaphragmatic radiotherapy boosts death rates slightly.

“It is important to focus on reducing risks through healthy lifestyle choices and consider important issues like preserving future fertility,” Fossa said. “We would also like to see screening guidelines developed to ensure that the long-term side effects are diagnosed and treated as early as possible.”

SOURCE: BJUI, news release, Oct. 15, 2009

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