Orchiectomy is the removal of the testicles. The penis and the scrotum, the pouch of skin that holds the testicles, are left intact. An orchiectomy is done to stop most of the body's production of testosterone, which prostate cancer usually needs in order to continue growing.
- Simple orchiectomy is the removal of both testicles through a cut (incision) in the front of the scrotum. If desired, artificial testicles (saline implants) can be put into the scrotum.
- Subcapsular orchiectomy is the removal of the tissue from the lining of the testicles where testosterone is made. This leaves a nearly normal-looking scrotum.
These methods work equally well for stopping the production of testosterone by the testicles. These surgeries are about as complicated as a vasectomy and take less than 30 minutes.
Orchiectomy can be done as an outpatient procedure or with a short hospital stay. You can typically resume regular activities in 1 to 2 weeks. And you can expect a full recovery in 2 to 4 weeks.
Orchiectomy may help relieve symptoms, prevent complications, and prolong survival for advanced prostate cancer. Radiation treatment is sometimes needed also.
Orchiectomy often causes the tumor to shrink and relieves bone pain.
This surgery does not cure prostate cancer, although it may prolong survival.
Orchiectomy causes sudden hormone changes in the body. Side effects from hormone changes may include:
- Loss of sexual interest.
- Erection problems.
- Hot flashes.
- Larger breasts (gynecomastia).
- Weight gain.
- Loss of muscle mass.
- Thin or brittle bones (osteoporosis).
Removing the testicles is one way to cut down on testosterone and other male hormones, or androgens. Taking medicine is another way to reduce androgen levels in your body. Some men may prefer surgery over taking pills or having injections. But if you choose to take medicine, you can stop taking the hormone drugs. And the side effects from taking medicine may go away. An orchiectomy is permanent.
Some men choose to have reconstructive surgery after an orchiectomy. For this, the surgeon replaces the testicles with artificial testicles.
Complete the surgery information form (PDF) to help you prepare for this surgery.
By Healthwise Staff Primary Medical Reviewer E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine Specialist Medical Reviewer Christopher G. Wood, MD, FACS - Urology, Oncology Last Revised September 12, 2012