blood vials in a lab

Lab Tests That Can Detect Testicular Cancer

Specialized blood tests help doctors find cancer early, especially in parts of the body that are hard to see, like the ovaries and testicles. To find out if someone has cancer, these tests look at certain chemicals that are in their blood. PSA is a molecule that is linked to prostate cancer, but it can sometimes show signs of testicular cancer.1 If the amounts of testosterone and estrogen are too high or too low, it could mean that someone has cancer which is what helps doctors find the disease early and start treatment.

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Laboratory testing is crucial for early cancer detection and treatment, affecting outcomes and survival. Ovarian and testicular cancers sometimes have equivocal symptoms or go unnoticed until late stages, making specific laboratory testing essential. These tests can identify cancer-related abnormalities, enabling early intervention and personalized treatment.

blood vials in a lab

Male Hormone Test

PSA is the test most often used to find prostate cancer. It is a protein made by both abnormal and healthy cells in the prostate, which is a male reproductive gland that is not related to the ovaries.

Since the testicles don’t make PSA, PSA values aren’t usually used to find or track testicular cancer. In some rare cases, though, some types of testicular cancer may have an indirect effect on PSA values.2 This is especially true if the disease has metastasized (spread) to the prostate or if there is a secondary effect on the health of the prostate. Still, this is a rare case and not a common way to find out if someone has testicular cancer.

Testosterone, which is mostly made in the ovaries, is the main male sex hormone. It changes a man’s libido, bone structure, fat distribution, muscle mass and power, as well as the production of red blood cells and sperm.

A lot of testosterone can be made by some types of testicular cancer, especially Leydig cell tumors. Therefore, a sudden rise in testosterone levels could be a sign of these kinds of cancers. On the other hand, if a tumor gets in the way of the testicles working normally, testosterone levels may drop. This can show up as tiredness, low libido, or infertility, which should lead to more tests to look for testicular cancer.

Estradiol is a type of estrogen, which is a hormone that is usually linked to women’s health and reproduction. But it also has a big effect on men’s health, changing their libido, erectile dysfunction, and the production of sperm.

Some types of testicular cancer, like testosterone, can make chemicals like estradiol. This is very true for some types of germ cell cancers. High amounts of estradiol in guys can lead to problems like gynecomastia (the growth of breast tissue) and infertility. Even though it’s not a surefire sign of testicular cancer, high or low amounts of estrogen could point to a problem with the testes that needs more research.

Final Thoughts

PSA, testosterone, and estradiol are not primary diagnostic tools for testicular cancer, although they can provide indirect evidence that may suggest malignancy or change testing. PSA, mostly associated with prostate health, may reveal testicular disease processes in rare situations, especially if cancer has metastasized. Testicular malignancies like Leydig cell tumors produce excessive hormones, therefore elevated testosterone levels might signal a hormonal imbalance and early cancer detection. Abnormal estradiol levels in males may indicate estrogen-releasing testicular tumors, requiring additional testing.

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[1] Balk SP, Ko YJ, Bubley GJ. Biology of prostate-specific antigen. J Clin Oncol. 2003 Jan 15;21(2):383-91. doi: 10.1200/JCO.2003.02.083. PMID: 12525533.

[2] Josefson D. High PSA levels may show body is fighting cancer. BMJ. 1999 Oct 16;319(7216):1025. doi: 10.1136/bmj.319.7216.1025. PMID: 10521187; PMCID: PMC1116837.

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