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Types of surgery

Fnd out about the types of surgery for testicular cancer.

Removing a testicle (orchidectomy)

Removing the testicle is usually the first treatment for testicular cancer. Your surgeon usually removes the whole testicle. The operation is called an orchidectomy or orchiectomy. This is also to diagnose the cancer.

Your doctor can put a false testicle in place of the missing one so it looks the same afterwards. This is called a prosthesis.

In some men with very small tumours the surgeon removes only part of the testicle but this is very rare. It is called a partial orchidectomy.

What to expect

You have the operation under either:

  • a general anaesthetic (where you are unconscious) or
  • a spinal anaesthetic (where you are awake but can't feel anything from the waist down)

The operation normally takes about 30 minutes.

The surgeon makes a cut in the groin and cuts the spermatic cord to remove the testicle. They might also remove nearby lymph nodes and a small gland called the seminal vesicle.

Diagram showing the testicle being removed (orchidectomy)

The surgeon sends the removed testicle to the laboratory for examination under a microscope. It takes a few days to get the results.

Removing lymph nodes (retroperitoneal lymph node dissection)

Lymph nodes form a network of glands throughout your body. Testicular cancer can spread to the lymph nodes and make them get bigger (enlarge).

If you have non seminoma cancer and still have enlarged lymph nodes in your tummy (abdomen) after radiotherapy or chemotherapy, you might have an operation to remove them. This operation is called retroperitoneal lymph node dissection.

What to expect

You have this surgery under general anaesthetic. It can take between 3 and 7 hours. You may need to stop eating and drinking for a few hours beforehand. You may have a drip.

Diagram showing the pelvic and para aortic lymph nodes

More rarely, you might have surgery to remove lymph nodes in your chest. This operation is called a para aortic lymph node dissection.

Removing secondary cancer in the lungs

If testicular cancer has spread to your lung you might have surgery to remove it.

Diagram showing testicular cancer that has spread to the lungs
Your specialist may suggest this if:
  • there is still a sign of cancer after chemotherapy
  • the cancer is thought to be resistant to chemotherapy

    What to expect

    This is major surgery that you have under general anaesthetic. You have a drip into your vein and tubes coming out from your wound.

    Surgery to the chest always makes the lung collapse. You have a tube into your chest for a few days. The tube connects to a suction bottle. It helps your lung expand (inflate) again.

    The surgery might involve cutting through some ribs. This can be painful while it heals.

    This surgery can be done more than once if the tumours grow back again. This will depend on how fit you are and how much treatment you want to have.

    Last reviewed: 
    11 Sep 2014
    • Testicular seminoma and non seminoma: ESMO Clinical Practice Guidelines for diagnosis, treatment and follow up
      J Oldenburg and others
      Annals of Oncology, 2013, 24 (supplement 6 ): vi125-vi132

    • Comparative effectiveness of minimally invasive versus open lymphadenectomy in urological cancers
      SM Prasad, AL Shalhav
      Current Opinion in Urology, 2013 Jan;23(1):57-64

    • Laparoscopic and open postchemotherapy retroperitoneal lymph node dissection in patients with advanced testicular cancer – a single center analysis
      J Busch and others
      Urology, 2012 May

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