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Curr Probl Cancer. 1998 Jul-Aug;22(4):187-274.

Testicular cancer.

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Division of Hematology/Oncology, Oregon Health Sciences University, Portland, USA.


The following article provides a comprehensive review of male germ cell tumors; the pathology and the clinical manifestations of the tumors are discussed, as are the modern concepts of clinical staging. Patients with bulky stage II and stage III non-seminomatous germ cell tumors are treated with chemotherapy. The new international classification system has provided a very useful way to categorize these patients by prognosis. Patients with good- or intermediate-risk tumors may be treated with 3 courses of cisplatin, etoposide, and bleomycin (BEP) or 4 courses of etoposide and cisplatin (EP), and more than 90% of these patients will survive. Randomized trials have shown that, if only 3 courses of chemotherapy are to be given, the substitution of carboplatin for cisplatin and the omission of bleomycin are deleterious to outcome. Patients who still have a significant residual mass and normal markers after treatment should undergo a surgical resection of the residual tumor. Patients who are classified by the international classification system as having poor-risk tumors have about a 50% likelihood of survival, and many of these patients will require surgical resection of a residual tumor after chemotherapy. No randomized trial has proved a regimen to be superior to that of 4 courses of BEP. Currently, an ongoing trial is evaluating the effect of the early use of high-dose therapy in combination with hematopoietic rescue in patients with these types of tumors. Patients with small-volume stage II tumors are generally treated with retroperitoneal lymph node dissection (RPLND). About 25% of the patients selected for this procedure will actually have pathologically negative nodes. Those with positive nodes may elect to receive adjuvant chemotherapy (2 courses of BEP), which will almost always prevent relapse. An alternate approach for patients willing to comply with monthly follow-up is surveillance, with chemotherapy deferred until relapse is noted. About 50% of these patients will be cured with surgery (as many as 75% have microscopic disease only). With careful follow-up, those destined to relapse can be treated promptly and at a time when they have small-volume tumors and an excellent prognosis if they go on to receive chemotherapy. Patients with clinical stage I nonseminomatous germ cell tumors may also undergo RPLND, although an acceptable alternative for these patients is surveillance. The advantages and the disadvantages of each approach are discussed. The overall risk of recurrence is about 30%, but there have been patient groups defined that may vary in risk from 10% to 15% up to 50% or more. Patients with advanced seminoma are treated with chemotherapy. When this procedure is used, outcomes are favorable and all patients are either in good- or intermediate-risk groups, according to the international classification system. Patients with small-volume stage II tumors are treated with radiotherapy. Radiation is also generally used for the treatment of clinical stage I patients, although surveillance is growing in prominence as a means to treat these patients. Late effects of treatment are also discussed in this article. Ejaculatory function can be preserved in most patients who have early stage tumors and who undergo RPLND and in some patients who undergo surgery after chemotherapy. The most troubling effect of chemotherapy is the development of etoposide-induced leukemia, a unique--and fortunately rare--clinical entity.

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