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Surgery to remove the testicles to treat prostate cancer

Men and women discussing prostate cancer

This page tells you about surgery to remove the testicles as a treatment for prostate cancer. The operation is called an orchidectomy. There is information about

 

A quick guide to what's on this page

Removing the testicles as a treatment for prostate cancer (orchidectomy)

An orchidectomy (called orchiectomy in the USA) is done to help to control the growth of prostate cancer. It is an operation to remove your testicles (testes). Prostate cancer needs testosterone in order to grow. Testosterone is the male sex hormone produced by the testicles. If the testicles are removed, the level of testosterone in your blood falls very quickly. And in 9 out of 10 men  (90%) the prostate cancer will stop growing and start to shrink.

Orchidectomy is not used very often these days because there are hormone treatments available that can lower testosterone levels. But some men choose to have an orchidectomy. They like the fact that it is one treatment compared to the injections which you have either monthly or 3 monthly. Other men don't like the fact that orchidectomy is not reversible and they worry about how they will feel about themselves after having their testicles removed. It is important to talk through with your doctor the pros and cons of having an orchidectomy.

It is a simple operation. The surgeon makes a small cut in your scrotum (the sac which holds your testicles). After removing your testicles, your surgeon may put in plastic balls (fake testicles or prostheses) to keep the look and shape of your scrotum the same.

 

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Removing the testicles (orchidectomy)

An orchidectomy (also called orchiectomy) is done to help control the growth of prostate cancer. It is an operation to remove your testicles (testes). Prostate cancer needs testosterone in order to grow. Testosterone is the male sex hormone produced by the testicles. If the testicles are removed, the level of testosterone in your blood falls very quickly. And in 9 out of 10 men (90%) the prostate cancer will stop growing and start to shrink.

Orchidectomy is not used very often these days because hormone treatments are available that can reduce testosterone levels. Some men choose to have an orchidectomy. They like the fact that it is one treatment compared to the injections which you have either monthly or 3 monthly. Other men don't like the fact that the surgery is not reversible and they worry about how they will feel about themselves after having their testicles removed. It is important to talk through with your doctor the pros and cons of having an orchidectomy.

 

How orchidectomy is done

Orchidectomy is a simple operation. The surgeon makes a small cut in your scrotum (the sac which holds your testicles). After removing your testicles, your surgeon may put in plastic balls (fake testicles or prostheses) so that your scrotum looks and feels the same.

You may be able to have a smaller operation to remove only the inner part of your testes. It is called subcapsular orchidectomy. With this operation you don't need a prosthesis.

 

Your feelings about orchidectomy

Some men find removal of the testicles very upsetting. The operation can cause side effects, including hot flushes and erection problems (impotency). There is detailed information about coping with hot flushes and sweats in the hormone therapy effects section. There is information about coping with erection problems in the section about sex and cancer for men.

You may find it helpful to have a chat with another man who has gone through the treatment. You can get in touch with a local support group. Other patients can help you realise you are not alone. Your GP may be able to put you in touch with local support services.

If you want to find people to share experiences with online, you could use Cancer Chat, our online forum. 

Look at our coping with cancer section for suggestions about managing your feelings and some of the other aspects of life with prostate cancer. You may find books or booklets helpful too. Look at the prostate cancer reading list.

There is general information about the side effects of surgery in the section about cancers in general.

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Updated: 21 February 2014