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What Doctors Don't Tell You

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February 2018 (Vol. 28 Issue 11)

Undescended testicles - is an operation necessary in childhood?

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Q:My 9 year old son has an undescended testicle and is waiting for an operation to remedy this

Q:My 9 year old son has an undescended testicle and is waiting for an operation to remedy this.

I am extremely anxious to know whether this is current fashionable practice (as were tonsillectomies at one time) or whether it is truly dangerous for the testicle to be left (I gather it could become cancerous) and that it will also not develop properly, let alone descend in its own good time.Having read your publications I feel the less he sees of hospitals, the better, even for minor surgery, such as this! S. C., Boston, Lincs......

A:We had a word with Dr Alan Franklin, our panel's resident paediatrician. Here are his views.

"It is very late for such an operation. It's usually done by the age of 5 or 6, but if the testis hasn't descended on its own by now, it's most unlikely that it will.

"Male hormones are sometimes used to encourage descent but again, it is a bit late for this approach.

"I regard the operation as standard practice, and for good reason. There is a 5 per cent chance of an undescended testis becoming malignant, but even without this risk, it will be non functioning if it doesn't descend.

"Consequently, I very much recommend your son going ahead with the operation."

In making your decision, you might bear in mind the views of the late Dr Robert Mendelsohn, an American paediatrician (and critic of modern medicine) Mendelsohn argued against surgery for a single undescended testicle because the mortality rate from the surgery is higher than the potential mortality rate from testicular cancer. We'd also add Mendelsohn's comment elsewhere in his book, that even with a single fertile testis, the average male could populate half the world.

In weighing the benefits and risks, we would suggest that you visit a noted children's hospital and investigate all the the current risks of the surgery.


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