The lymphatic system

Sometimes, cancer cells from the testicles can spread to nearby lymph nodes. Lymph nodes are part of the lymphatic system. The lymphatic system helps to protect us from infection and disease. It also drains lymph fluid from the tissues of the body before returning it to the blood. The lymphatic system is made up of fine tubes called lymphatic vessels that connect to groups of lymph nodes throughout the body.

The retroperitoneal and pelvic lymph nodes
The retroperitoneal and pelvic lymph nodes

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Lymph nodes (sometimes called lymph glands) filter bacteria (germs) and disease from the lymph fluid. When you have an infection, lymph nodes often swell as they fight the infection.

The lymphatic vessels carry fluid called lymph, which contains cells that help us fight infection. Lymph fluid from your testicles travels to a collection of lymph nodes at the back of your tummy (abdomen). These are called the retroperitoneal lymph nodes. They lie just behind your bowel and in front of your spine. Sometimes, cancer cells from the testicles can spread to these nodes. You’ll have a scan (CT scan) to check whether any of these nodes are larger than normal.

Back to Understanding testicular cancer

What is cancer?

Cancer is a disease of our cells. Sometimes cells go wrong and become abnormal. They keep dividing to make more abnormal cells which form a lump or tumour.

The testicles

The testicles produce sperm and the hormone testosterone. They are the main part of the male reproductive system.

What is testicular cancer?

Testicular cancer is more common in younger to middle-aged men. There are two main types – seminoma and non-seminoma.

Testicular self-examination

Regularly checking your testicles from puberty can help find a testicular cancer earlier, when it is easier to treat.