The time it takes for testicular cancer to advance to distant tissues depends on your subtype of testicular cancer. Some testicular cancers never spread to distant tissues, while others will usually have spread by the time you receive a diagnosis.

Testicular cancer is one of the most common cancers among young males. It develops in one of your two testicles, which produce sperm and the hormone testosterone.

Testicular cancer generally has an excellent outlook, but it becomes difficult to treat if it metastasizes. The word “metastasize” means spreads to distant parts of your body. “Metastatic cancer” is cancer that has metastasized.

Testicular cancer tends to develop slowly, but some subtypes, like embryonal carcinomas, can progress quickly. Read on to learn more about how quickly testicular cancer spreads to distant tissues.

Most people with testicular cancer receive a diagnosis before their cancer spreads to distant body parts. Only about 12% have metastatic cancer at diagnosis, also called stage 3 testicular cancer.

The rate at which your cancer progresses largely depends on which subtype of cancer it is. But it often takes years for testicular cancer to spread to distant organs.

Most testicular tumors that metastasize do so within the first 2 years. Tumors that metastasize in less than 2 years are called early metastatic tumors, while tumors that metastasize after 5 or more years are known as late metastatic tumors.

Germ cell tumors and germ cell cancer in situ

More than 90% of testicular cancers are germ cell tumors. Research suggests that these tumors can double in size every 10–33 days.

Many germ cell tumors develop from a precancerous condition that usually doesn’t cause symptoms, called germ cell neoplasia in situ. This precancerous condition progresses to germ cell cancer in about 5 years.

Germ cell tumors can be further subdivided into seminoma and non-seminoma tumors. Each of these subcategories can be broken down into even more specific types of cancer:

  • seminoma tumors:
    • classical seminoma, which makes up more than 95% of seminomas
    • spermatocytic seminoma
  • non-seminoma tumors:
    • embryonal carcinoma
    • yolk sac carcinoma
    • choriocarcinoma

Non-seminoma tumors tend to metastasize more often than seminoma tumors. Spread to internal organs has been reported up to 20 times more frequently in non-seminomas. In about 15% of cases, the spread is to the lungs.

Seminoma tumors

Spermatocytic seminoma tumors tend to be less aggressive than other types of testicular cancer. They tend to grow slowly and rarely spread to other tissues.

Classical seminoma tends to be diagnosed at an early stage. In a 2023 case study, researchers reported a case of a classical seminoma that spread to a man’s kidney and lymph nodes 25 years after cancer treatment.

Non-seminoma tumors

About two-thirds of people with embryonal carcinoma have metastases when they receive a diagnosis.

About 70% of people who have choriocarcinoma have metastasis by the time they receive a diagnosis. It tends to spread early to the lungs and liver.

Gastric yolk sac tumors are extremely rare, with only about 19 cases reported as of 2021. Most people have widespread metastases when they receive a diagnosis.

Testicular teratoma follows an unpredictable pattern. It can sometimes be aggressive.

Sex cord-stromal tumors

In a 2019 study, researchers found that half of stage 2 sex cord-stromal tumors metastasized within 2.7 years in a group of 14 men treated from 1980 to 2018. These cancers develop in the cells that support your testicles.

Common places for testicular cancer to spread include:

  • lymph nodes in your:
    • chest
    • pelvis
    • neck
  • lungs
  • bones
  • liver
  • brain

Where is the first place testicular cancer spreads?

Testicular cancer tends to spread in a predictable pattern, starting in the retroperitoneal lymph nodes found in the back of your abdomen. From here, it can spread to other lymph nodes or other internal organs like the lungs or brain.

Metastatic testicular cancer is difficult to treat, but it still has a better outlook than many other types of cancer.

Based on data from 2013 to 2019, the 5­-year relative survival rate of metastatic testicular cancer in the United States was 73.4%. This means people with metastatic testicular cancer lived 5 or more years about three-quarters as often as people without testicular cancer.

Testicular cancer usually has an excellent outlook, but it can be life threatening, especially in people who have advanced disease. Here’s a look at the 5-year relative survival by stage from 2013 to 2019 in the United States:

StageSurvival rate
Localized99.2%
Regional96.0%
Distant (Metastatic)73.4%
All stages91.3%

Learn more about the survival rates for testicular cancer.

Testicular cancer can progress silently for many years. Some people don’t notice they have cancer until they have metastatic disease. However, most people have noticeable swelling or a lump in one of their testicles before the cancer spreads to distant areas.

Some types of testicular cancer, such as spermatocytic tumors of the testis, grow slowly. It may take them many years to spread if they ever grow beyond your testicle.

Some other types of testicular cancer, such as non-seminoma tumors, can spread rapidly and can lead to death within a couple of years without treatment.

The outlook for testicular cancer is usually best the earlier it’s treated. It’s important to see a doctor promptly if you notice any changes to your testicles, like swelling or a lump.