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What Is Testicular Mesothelioma?

Testicular mesothelioma is a cancer of the protective lining around the testes. This cancer is called “mesothelioma of the tunica vaginalis testis.”

There are only a few documented cases. Mesothelioma usually forms in the lining in the thorax (chest region) or abdomen.

According to a report by the University of Maryland Medical Center, there have been approximately 100 known cases of testicular mesothelioma. The median age of patients is around 53.

How Does Testicular Mesothelioma Develop?

Mesothelioma occurs when mesothelial cells, which line specific membranes, become cancerous. Testicular mesothelioma occurs due to mutation of cells in the protective lining around the testes.

Mutated mesothelial cells replicate uncontrollably and overwhelm healthy tissue within the cavity. The disease eventually spreads beyond the cavity and towards vital organs.

Mesothelial linings help protect nearby organs and allow for safe movement. Each male testicle is covered by two layers of tissue and cells. The inner layer is the “tunica albuginea” and the outer layer is the “tunica vaginalis.”

Is Asbestos Exposure the Cause?

There is a lack of research regarding the cause of testicular mesothelioma. Asbestos exposure is the only known cause of pleural mesothelioma (near the lungs) and peritoneal mesothelioma (near the abdominal cavity).

However, asbestos is not definitively linked to testicular mesothelioma. Some patients report a history of exposure to asbestos, but there is no proof that asbestos fibers can reach the testes’ protective linings.

Two studies provide further information:

  • According to an Italian study, around 27% of testicular mesothelioma cases involve a history of asbestos exposure.
  • In an American study of 74 testicular mesothelioma cases, only 25 (34.2%) involved a known history of asbestos exposure.

Although asbestos isn’t definitively linked to testicular mesothelioma, the substance can lodge into mesothelial cellular linings. Asbestos can cause permanent genetic damage to mesothelial cells.

Symptoms of Testicular Mesothelioma

There are three primary symptoms of testicular mesothelioma.

  • Fluid buildup
  • Groin pain
  • Swelling of one or both testicles

When mesothelioma develops in the tunica vaginalis, the lining starts to thicken and produce fluid buildup. This symptom, called “hydrocele,” is the most common. It can result in another symptom: swelling of one or both testicles.

Fluid buildup and tumor accumulation reduces space and restricts the testes’ movement. This effect can cause pain in the groin or testes.

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Treatment for Testicular Mesothelioma

Treatment is the same as for other types of mesothelioma. Surgery to remove the diseased area is the quickest way to remove a large quantity of tumors. If the disease is localized, then surgery is the preferred approach.

The most aggressive surgical option is inguinal orchiectomy, which is called an orchidectomy. “Inguinal” is another word for groin. This surgery involves removing one or both testicles, the lining around the testes, and the entire spermatic cord.

If the tumors have reached nearby lymph nodes, then surgeons may perform lymph node dissection.

Additional methods like chemotherapy and radiation can control the disease’s growth or prevent recurrence. They are used either after surgery or if surgery isn’t an option.

Prognosis and Survival Rates

Since this type of mesothelioma is so rare, prognosis and survival rates are based on limited data.

In one study in the Singapore Medical Journal, the two-year survival rate following diagnosis was 46%. The University of Maryland Medical Center confirmed this statistic with its own data:

  • The median survival is around 23 months.
  • The survival times range from two months to more than five years.
  • As with the other types of mesothelioma, survival depends heavily on how soon patients are diagnosed and begin treatment.

Long-term survival is possible. If you have this cancer, we can help you do more research into treatment and finding the best medical care in the country. You can request to speak with one of our patient advocates whenever you’re comfortable.

Sources & Author

    1. Asbestos exposure and malignant mesothelioma of the tunica vaginalis testis: a systematic review and the experience of the Apulia (southern Italy) mesothelioma register. BioMed Central. Retrieved from: https://ehjournal.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12940-019-0512-4. Accessed: 07/15/2020.
    2. The testicles. Canadian Cancer Society. Retrieved from: https://www.cancer.ca/en/cancer-information/cancer-type/testicular/testicular-cancer/the-testicles/?region=on. Accessed: 07/15/2020.
    3. Malignant Mesothelioma of the Tunica Vaginalis Testis. University of Maryland Medical Center. Retrieved from: https://www.archivesofpathology.org/doi/pdf/10.5858/arpa.2010-0550-RS. Accessed: 07/15/2020.
    4. Two Case Reports of Benign Testicular Mesothelioma and Review of the Literature. Hindawi. Retrieved from: https://www.hindawi.com/journals/crionm/2017/5419635/. Accessed: 07/15/2020.
    5. Malignant mesothelioma of the tunica vaginalis testis: A case report and literature review. Molecular and Clinical Oncology. Retrieved from: https://www.spandidos-publications.com/10.3892/mco.2017.1450. Accessed: 07/15/2020.
    6. Signs and Symptoms of Mesothelioma. Moffitt Cancer Center. Retrieved from: https://moffitt.org/cancers/mesothelioma/symptoms/. Accessed: 07/15/2020.
Devin Golden

About the Writer, Devin Golden

Devin Golden is a content writer for Mesothelioma Guide. He produces mesothelioma-related content on various mediums, including the Mesothelioma Guide website and social media channels. Devin's objective is to translate complex information regarding mesothelioma into informative, easily absorbable content to help patients and their loved ones.