Undescended testes is a condition that occurs when a testicle formed in the abdomen while the baby is in utero fails to enter the scrotum. In approximately 50% of cases the testicle will eventually emerge into the scrotum but in other babies it won’t. A new study by the University of Sydney researchers has warned that delaying surgery to fix this problem can put young boys at a heightened risk of serious health problems as they grow in to adults. After examining medical records of more than 350,000 boys born in Australia between 1970 and 2000 they found that those with undescended testes were 2.4 times more likely to develop testicular cancer. This also means they are 20% less likely to have children and twice as likely to need assistance to treat male infertility. For many years guidelines have recommended that surgery to fix this problem should be carried out within the first 18 months of life.
In order to make sperm the temperature of the testicles needs to be cooler than inside of the body, which is why they hang outside of the body. It is thought that boys who go too long with undescended testes are at great risk of testicular cancer and fertility problems because these increased temperatures within the body contribute to cell malignancy and damaged reproductive germ cells. It is now preferred that surgery is done within the first six months of life.
Babies are routinely examined for this condition usually within the first 24 hours of birth. We have all of our babies examined by a Specialist Neonatal Paediatrician before they are discharged from hospital. In some instances, the testicles have a tendency to retract even after the child is born. This happens when the spermatic cord, to which the testicle is attached, does not keep pace with the growth of the body and the short cord pulls the testicle back up into the body. Another key risk factor for undescended testes is being born prematurely as the testes have not had time to descend spontaneously.
Dr Len Kliman is one of Melbourne’s most experienced and respected obstetricians and gynaecologists.
With over three decades of experience, Dr Kliman has delivered over 20,000 babies and still counting!
In 2017, Dr Kliman was awarded an Order of Australia for his services to obstetrics and gynaecology.