Testicular mesothelioma is the rarest form of mesothelioma. It occurs in less than one percent of all cases.
Written by Jenna Campagna, RN
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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.
This page will cover all aspects of testicular mesothelioma, including:
- How the cancer develops
- Questionable link to asbestos exposure
- Primary symptoms to look for
- Treatment options to improve survival
- General prognosis for patients
How Does Testicular Mesothelioma Develop?
Mesothelioma occurs when mesothelial cells, which line specific membranes, become cancerous and form tumors. Testicular mesothelioma occurs due to mutation of the mesothelial 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 and other tissue.
Mesothelial linings help protect nearby organs and allow for safe movement, such as the lungs for expansion and contraction during breathing. Each male testicle is covered by two layers of tissue and cells. The inner layer is called the “tunica albuginea” and the outer layer is the “tunica vaginalis.”
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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 the two most common types of mesothelioma: pleural mesothelioma (near the lungs) and peritoneal mesothelioma (near the abdominal cavity).
However, asbestos is not definitively linked to testicular mesothelioma. Some patients do report a history of exposure to this industrial substance, but there is no irrefutable proof that asbestos fibers can reach the testes’ protective linings and cause cell mutation.
Two studies provide information regarding the lack of connection:
- 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 hasn’t been definitively linked to testicular mesothelioma, the substance can lodge into mesothelial cellular linings such as the tunica vaginalis. Asbestos can cause permanent genetic damage to these cells and lead to mesothelioma.
Symptoms of Testicular Mesothelioma
There are three primary symptoms of testicular mesothelioma. They are:
- 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.
The reduced space in the lining due to fluid buildup and tumor accumulation also restricts the testes’ movement. This effect can cause pain in the groin or testes.
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 — meaning it is contained within the testes region — then surgery is the preferred approach.
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 for a patient.
Prognosis and Survival Rates
Since this type of mesothelioma is so rare, prognosis and survival rates are based on limited data.
In one study published by 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 prognosis depends heavily on how progressed the cancer is at time of diagnosis.
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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Signs and Symptoms of Mesothelioma. Moffitt Cancer Center. Retrieved from: https://moffitt.org/cancers/mesothelioma/symptoms/. Accessed: 07/15/2020.