Problems after surgery for testicular cancer

There is a risk of problems or complications after any operation. Many problems are minor but some can be life threatening. Treating them as soon as possible is important.

The possible problems depend on the type of surgery you have.

General risks

After any major operation there is a risk of:

Infection

You are at risk of getting an infection after an operation, such as a wound, chest or urine infection. You will have antibiotics to reduce the risk of developing an infection after surgery. Tell your doctor or nurse if you have any symptoms of infection.

They include:

  • a high temperature
  • shivering
  • feeling hot and cold
  • feeling generally unwell
  • cough
  • feeling sick
  • swelling or redness around your wound and your wound might feel hot
  • a strong smell or liquid oozing from your wound

Occasionally for an infection in your wound, you may need another operation.

Blood clots

Blood clots (deep vein thrombosis, DVT) are a possible complication of having surgery because you might not move about as much as usual. Clots can block the normal flow of blood through the veins. Let your doctor or nurse know if you have an area in your leg that is swollen, hot, red or sore.

There is a risk that a blood clot can become loose and travel through the bloodstream to the lungs, causing a blockage there (a pulmonary embolism). Symptoms include:

  • shortness of breath
  • chest pain
  • coughing up blood
  • feeling dizzy or light headed
If you have any symptoms of a blood clot when you are at home, you should contact a doctor immediately. This might be your emergency GP service. Or going to your nearest accident and emergency department (A&E).

To prevent clots it's important to do the leg exercises that your nurse or physiotherapist taught you. Your nurse might also give you an injection just under the skin to help lower the risk whilst you are in hospital. You might need to carry on having these injections for 4 weeks, even after you go home. This depends on the type of operation you had.

Your nurse might teach you to do these injections yourself before you go home. Or a district nurse might come to your home to do them.

It's important to continue wearing compression stockings if you have been told to by your doctor.

Bleeding

There is a risk that you will bleed after your operation. The team looking after you will monitor you closely for signs of bleeding. The risk of bleeding is greatest straight after your operation, and is much lower after 3 or 4 days. 

The treatment you need depends on what is causing the bleeding and how much blood you lose.

You might need a blood transfusion. Rarely, you might need to go back for urgent surgery. 

Problems after surgery to remove one testicle

Most men have cancer in one testicle. You have surgery to remove the testicle. It isn't common to need surgery to remove both testicles. 

You will have some soreness and bruising for a couple of weeks after your operation. 

Your sex life

Having one testicle removed won’t affect your ability to get an erection. The remaining testicle usually makes more testosterone (the male sex hormone) and sperm. This makes up for the removed testicle. 

But you might feel less like having sex, at least for a while, after your treatment. Side effects like feeling tired or sick can also lower your sex drive.

Having children (fertility)

For most people, this surgery won’t affect your ability to have children (your fertility). But for some men, your remaining testicle might not work so well. This could reduce your fertility.

Your doctor will offer you the chance to collect and store sperm (sperm banking) before you start treatment. This is a way of storing your sperm for use in later fertility treatment. 

Swelling

After surgery, fluid can collect on the penis and cause swelling. This swelling usually goes away on its own. But contact your doctor if it’s getting worse or continues.

Problems after surgery to remove both testicles

It isn't common to have testicular cancer in both testicles.  If you do have cancer in both testicles you need surgery to remove them both.

The testicles produce the hormone testosterone. After removal of both testicles, the level of testosterone in the blood falls quickly.  This will affect your sex life and your ability to have children (fertility).

Possible changes to your sex drive and becoming infertile can be difficult to come to terms with. Talking to someone about this could help. This could be a close friend or a professional.

Your sex life

To maintain your sex drive and be able to get an erection you would need testosterone replacement therapy.

Testosterone can be replaced by:

  • injections into the muscle of your arm or leg every 2 to 3 weeks
  • skin patches (like plasters) that give a small dose through the skin all the time
  • gel that you rub onto your skin every day

Having children (fertility)

After surgery to remove both testicles, you won't be able to have children. Your doctor will talk to you about sperm banking before surgery.

Problems after surgery to remove lymph nodes (retroperitoneal lymph node dissection)

You might need this surgery to remove lymph glands at the back of your tummy (abdomen). This operation is called a retroperitoneal lymph node dissection (RPLND). It is a large operation.

The operation can damage nerves that control the release of sperm (ejaculation). This could affect your sex life and your ability to have children in the future. 

Your sex life

You can still get an erection and have an orgasm. But a side effect of this surgery is dry ejaculation.

The surgery can make you ejaculate backwards. This is called retrograde ejaculation. Your semen and sperm go back into your bladder instead of coming out of your penis.

Having children (fertility)

If you have retrograde ejaculation you won't be able to make someone pregnant by having sexual intercourse. But it may be possible to take sperm directly from your testicles or from your urine after you have had sex. The fertility doctor can then use your sperm to fertilise your partner directly or with in vitro fertilization (IVF).

Your doctor will talk to you about storing sperm before the operation.

Damage to other organs in your tummy (abdomen)

This is a large operation. So there is a risk that the surgery might damage other organs inside your tummy (abdomen). This includes damage to the small bowel, kidneys or the tubes that drain urine (ureters). 

The surgeon usually identifies and repairs these problems during your operation. 

Leaks

There are lymphatic vessels in your tummy (abdomen). These are part of the lymphatic system Open a glossary item. These vessels drain fluid from the small bowel. The fluid is called chyle. 

The lymphatic vessels can leak chyle after your operation. When chyle leaks into the abdomen it is called chylus ascites. 

You might not need any treatment for a small leak. But a larger leak can make you unwell. Treatment is a to drain the fluid with a drain in your abdomen. You might have the drain for a couple of days. You might also need to have a low fat diet for the following 4 weeks. This lowers how much chyle your body makes. 

Last reviewed: 
06 Feb 2022
Next review due: 
06 Feb 2025
  • Testicular seminoma and non-seminoma: ESMO-EURACAN Clinical Practice Guideline for diagnosis, treatment and follow-up
    J. Oldenburg and others
    Annals of Oncology, 2022 Volume 33, Issue 4, pages 362 - 375

  • Guidelines on Male Infertility
    P Albers and others
    European Association of Urology, 2016

  • EAU Guidelines on Testicular Cancer
    MP Laguna and others
    European Association of Urology 2021

  • Cancer Principles & Practice of Oncology (10th edition)
    V T DeVita Jr, T S Lawrence and S A Rosenberg
    Wolers Kluwer 2015

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