Testicular mesothelioma accounts for under 1% of all reported cases of the disease. To date, there have been less than 100 cases reported, making it extremely rare. Testicular mesothelioma affects the tunica vaginalis. The tunica vaginalis is a protective lining of mesothelial tissue that forms a sac covering the testis.
Testicular mesothelioma causes the cells of the tunica vaginalis to mutate. Unlike other types of mesothelioma, it has not been linked to asbestos exposure. Therefore, its exact cause is unknown. In addition, there is limited research on the topic so little is known about how the condition worsens.
In the early stages of testicular mesothelioma, you probably won’t feel any symptoms even with the presence of a tumor. Research indicates that this asymptomatic state may only last for about one to two months1. You will find that you’ll start feeling some symptoms as the tumor grows and spreads.
Specific to testicular mesothelioma
- Symptoms you may experience as result of cancerous tissue originating in the tunica vaginalis include the following:
Pain in the testicles and surrounding area: This can be caused by a tumor pressing onto other tissues. It may radiate to the groin, thighs, and the lower back.
Swelling in the testicles: Also caused by tumor growth.
A palpable mass in the testicles: This is caused by the ability to feel a tumor.
A lumpy and dense appearance: This means your condition is worsening and is considered relatively unique to testicular mesothelioma. It may or may not be painful. According to a study, 54% of patients only experienced this symptom1.
Fatigue: This is related to other types of mesothelioma.
Diarrhea and abdominal pain: These are frequently reported.
You may begin to feel additional symptoms if the cancer spreads to other areas. For example, if it spreads to above the diaphragm, you may experience shortness of breath.
Why symptoms may lead to a misdiagnosis
Swelling is a common symptom of other diseases affecting the testicles, such as hydrocele. Hydrocele is a collection of excess fluid in the scrotum, and may be caused by inflammation or injury. To differentiate a hydrocele from testicular mesothelioma, transillumination may be used. This involves shining a bright light at the scrotum to see internal structures that would indicate the presence of fluid buildup.
Pain may also be associated with hernia, a condition that involves a portion of the bowels pushing into the scrotum or groin area.
Pathologic examination of a tumor affecting the tunica vaginalis, removed during surgery, is considered the best way to make a proper diagnosis. Other helpful methods to detect testicular tumors (which may not be mesothelioma) include ultrasound and magnetic resonance imaging.
Fortunately, testicular mesothelioma is related to a better survival rate than the other types of the disease. It is generally localized, which means surgery is considered an effective method of treatment to remove a part of or the entire tumor along with any affected lymph nodes. This can dramatically reduce or eliminate any symptoms, and may even be curative.