Testicular Mesothelioma

Testicular mesothelioma is an extremely rare form of cancer linked with asbestos exposure. It begins when cancerous tumors form in the protective lining that covers the testicles. Testicular mesothelioma can cause painful symptoms, including excessive swelling. However, it has a slightly better prognosis than mesothelioma that forms in the lining of the lungs, abdominal cavity, or heart.

Written and Fact-Checked by: Laura Wright

Testicular Mesothelioma Overview

Little is known about testicular mesothelioma compared to more common forms, such as peritoneal or pleural mesothelioma.

Quick Facts About Testicular Mesothelioma
  • Rare form of mesothelioma that makes up less than 1% of all cases
  • Affects older males, typically over 55 years old
  • Has an average life expectancy of 46.7 months
  • Develops 10-50 years after exposure to asbestos
  • Can be treated by surgically removing the affected testicle
  • Requires the expertise of a specialized mesothelioma doctor

What Is Testicular Mesothelioma?

Testicular mesothelioma is a cancer that begins forming within the mesothelial lining of the testicles. The mesothelial lining is the fibrous tissue that protects several organs in the body, including the lungs, stomach, intestines, and heart.

Did You Know?

The mesothelial lining of the testicles is called the tunica vaginalis. It’s an important tissue that allows for the healthy movement of the testicles.

Testicular mesothelioma is believed to be triggered when someone inhales or ingests asbestos fibers that then become lodged deep within the protective testicle linings. After a period of 10-50 years, the patient will start to experience symptoms of testicular mesothelioma.

Testicular Mesothelioma Life Expectancy

The average life expectancy of a patient diagnosed with testicular mesothelioma is 46.7 months. However, if the cancer is detected early enough, patients can seek surgery and other treatments to increase their survival time. In fact, 49% of testicular mesothelioma patients live 5 years or longer after their initial diagnosis.

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Testicular Mesothelioma Causes

Most types of mesothelioma are caused by the same thing: asbestos exposure. Asbestos is a dangerous and toxic substance used in construction and industrial applications for multiple decades during the 20th century.

A doctor speaks with a patient about testicular mesothelioma

Many people came into contact with asbestos on a regular basis, and sometimes that contact was at dangerously high levels. Asbestos exposure causes not only mesothelioma but other deadly respiratory conditions and cancers as well.

While the other forms of mesothelioma — which include pleural, peritoneal, and pericardial mesothelioma — have direct links to asbestos exposure, it remains unclear whether asbestos exposure is the only cause of testicular mesothelioma.

Some reports indicate that fewer than half of all testicular mesothelioma patients have a known history of asbestos exposure.

However, what else could cause testicular mesothelioma still remains a mystery. In cases where asbestos is the cause of testicular mesothelioma, it occurs due to a cellular mutation of healthy cells into abnormal cells triggered by this known carcinogen.

How Asbestos Leads to Testicular Mesothelioma

It’s not known how asbestos fibers end up in the tunica vaginalis in the first place. In the cases of pleural and peritoneal mesothelioma, the asbestos fibers are inhaled or ingested, respectively.

They then make their way into the lungs or digestive system. At this time, it’s unclear what path the asbestos fibers take in order to reach the tunica vaginalis.

But once they make their way into this vulnerable tissue, they cannot be expelled. Instead, they remain trapped deep in the tunica vaginalis for years or decades. After a long period of causing irritation and inflammation, eventually, otherwise healthy cells turn abnormal and start dividing and spreading quickly.

Unchecked cell growth is the root of cancer. As cancer spreads, it shuts down nearby organs and spreads into the immune filtration system (lymphatic system).

Like all cancers, testicular mesothelioma can be controlled with early treatment. If doctors detect testicular mesothelioma early enough, they can prevent it from spreading to other areas of the body and give the patient a better chance at survival.

Testicular Mesothelioma Symptoms

Symptoms Update

As a rare cancer, it’s difficult to define specific sets of symptoms for testicular mesothelioma. However, because it does affect the testicles, the majority of early symptoms will usually be related to this area.

Some major signs of testicular mesothelioma include:

  • A mass of tissue buildup in the testicle
  • Fluid buildup in the scrotum
  • Painful swelling of the testicle

What causes these symptoms is a thickening of the tunica vaginalis tissue. When abnormal cell growth begins, the body counteracts with inflammation. As inflammation increases, the testicle’s lining thickens. This is followed by the production of fluid, which causes further swelling.

Swelling and masses in the testicle can easily be mistaken for more common conditions, such as a hernia. A misdiagnosis is easy to make but can be fatal if it delays a patient from getting treatment. If you experience any of the above symptoms, you should schedule a physical examination with a mesothelioma specialist right away.

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Testicular Mesothelioma Treatment

All types of mesothelioma are aggressive forms of cancer, meaning they grow and spread quickly. High rates of tumor growth make it difficult for doctors to intervene early enough to eliminate cancer. However, the goal of mesothelioma treatment is to remove as much of the cancer as possible.

In cases of testicular mesothelioma, specialists will typically remove the affected testicle. Or, if the mesothelioma has spread to the other testicle, they will remove both. By removing the testicles, doctors can prevent the mesothelioma from spreading to nearby organs or lymph nodes.

In addition to surgery — or as an alternative in cases where the patient is not a good surgical candidate — doctors may also administer chemotherapy and radiation therapy. These two forms of anticancer treatments help prevent mesothelioma from spreading.

  • Chemotherapy involves the use of anticancer drugs taken orally or intravenously. These cancer-fighting medications circulate through the body, killing mesothelioma cells in their path.
  • Radiation therapy uses high-energy beams to target and strike tumors. The radiation scrambles the cancer cells’ DNA, preventing them from multiplying.

Find a Testicular Mesothelioma Specialist

Because mesothelioma is such a rare form of cancer, only doctors who have extensive experience in mesothelioma research and treatment can effectively treat affected patients.

If you or someone you love has been diagnosed with testicular mesothelioma, it’s vital to book an appointment with a specialist for a second opinion. General oncologists may not have the expertise required to design an effective treatment plan for this type of cancer.

If you’ve been diagnosed with testicular mesothelioma, contact our Patient Advocates today to find the specialized treatment you need.

Testicular Mesothelioma FAQs

How rare is testicular mesothelioma?

Testicular mesothelioma is incredibly rare. It occurs in less than 1% of all mesotheliomas According to the National Institutes of Health, since the first case was recorded in 1957, there have been less than 1,000 documented cases.

However, it should be noted that diagnosis of testicular mesothelioma can be difficult as the symptoms mimic many other conditions.

Can I have more than one type of mesothelioma?

Though it’s rare, it is possible to have more than one type of mesothelioma. After all, asbestos exposure is the only known cause of mesothelioma, and the different types affect different parts of the body.

The four organs that can be affected are the lungs, abdomen, heart, and testicles.

Written by:

Lead Editor

Laura Wright is a journalist and content strategist with more than 14 years of professional experience. She attended college at the University of Florida, graduating magna cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in journalism in 2008. Her writing has been featured in The Gainesville Sun and other regional publications throughout Florida.

2 References
  1. National Institutes of Health, “Malignant mesothelioma of the tunica vaginalis testis: a malignancy associated with recurrent epididymitis?” Retrieved December 29, 2022, from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3506562/

  2. National Institutes of Health, “Malignant mesothelioma of the tunica vaginalis testis: a rare case and review of literature.” Retrieved December 29, 2022 from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7045691/

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