Testicular Cancer: Tests After Diagnosis
After a diagnosis of testicular cancer, you will likely have other tests. These tests help your healthcare providers learn more about your cancer. They can help show if the cancer has grown into nearby areas or spread to other parts of the body. The test results help your healthcare providers decide the best ways to treat the cancer. If you have any questions about these or other tests, be sure to talk with your healthcare team.
The tests you may have can include:
Positron emission tomography (PET) scan
An X-ray of the chest can help tell if the cancer has spread to the lungs or to lymph nodes in the middle of the chest.
A CT scan uses X-rays to take pictures of the inside of your body from many angles. A computer puts these images together to make a detailed image. CT scans can help your doctor learn if your cancer has spread to other parts of the body, such as your lymph nodes in the back part of your abdomen. They are also sometimes used to help guide a needle biopsy. This is called a CT-guided needle biopsy. Your doctor may do this test if he or she thinks your cancer has spread (metastacized).
An MRI takes detailed pictures of the inside of your body. It uses radio waves and magnets instead of X-ray to take the images. An MRI can be more uncomfortable than a CT scan. It may also take longer. MRI is especially useful in looking at the spinal cord and brain.
For this test, a doctor injects radioactive sugar into one of your veins. Cancer cells use sugar for energy. They take up the radioactive material faster than normal cells. A scanner with a special camera finds these radioactive hot spots. This test is most often used with certain types of testicular cancer to see how well treatment has worked.
Your doctor might remove a tissue sample (biopsy) if he or she thinks cancer might have spread (metastacized) to other parts of the body. This might be the lymph nodes or lungs. The biopsy can tell your doctor if the tissue is cancer. Biopsies can be done in different ways, depending on where they are in the body.
Your doctor may order blood tests if you have testicular cancer and it raises the levels of certain tumor markers in your blood. These markers include alpha-fetoprotein (AFP) and human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG). Your doctor may test your blood for these markers during and after treatment to see how well it is working.
Working with your healthcare provider
Your healthcare provider will talk with you about which tests you'll have. Make sure to get ready for the tests as instructed. Ask questions and talk about any concerns you have.
March 21, 2017
Alteri, Richard, MD,MMI board-certified, academically affiliated clinician