Mesothelioma

Testicular Mesothelioma

Mesothelioma is a rare cancer almost exclusively caused when asbestos fibers infiltrate the mesothelial cells surrounding an organ or area of the body, causing the cells to become abnormal and divide rapidly. Mesothelioma comes in four main forms: pleural mesothelioma, peritoneal mesothelioma, pericardial mesothelioma, and testicular mesothelioma, each of which is characterized by the area of the body in which the disease begins. Testicular mesothelioma is extremely rare and accounts for a very small number of reported cases each year. Less than 100 cases of testicular mesothelioma have been reported to date. The majority of known cases of testicular mesothelioma affect men between 55 and 75 years old. The incidence of testicular mesothelioma is so small, however, that no studies have been done specifically about this disease.

Testicular mesothelioma develops in the mesothelial membrane that surrounds the testicles, which is known as the tunica vaginalis. The purpose of the tunica vaginalis is to provide support and protection to the testicle. The tunica vaginalis is a two-layered mesothelial membrane. The inner layer, or visceral layer, surrounds the testicle closely. The outer later, or parietal layer, surrounds the body cavity in general.

Causes of Testicular Mesothelioma

Testicular mesothelioma occurs after toxic asbestos fibers have become lodged between the mesothelial cells of the tunica vaginalis. Asbestos fibers are very difficult for the body to expel and can cause some surrounding cells to mutate into cancerous cells overtime. These cancerous cells then grow and divide far more rapidly than healthy cells, leading to a thickening of the membranes and the development of tumors. The cancer growth may begin on either sub-membrane but is likely to quickly spread to the other. Additionally, tumors on the testicles may be the primary cancer in the patient - or they may be secondary to peritoneal tumors.

At this time, scientists have gathered very little information about how asbestos fibers travel to the tunica vaginalis. Unlike in the case of pleural mesothelioma (where it is clear that asbestos fibers are inhaled directly into the lungs), there is no obvious route for asbestos fibers to reach the testicles. Scientists have no explanation for the development of tumors in the testicles as the primary instance of mesothelioma. In cases where the tumors are secondary to those found in the peritoneum, however, scientists hypothesize that the testicular tumors are metastases of the original peritoneal tumors.

Some doctors have also hypothesized that testicular mesothelioma may not always be linked to asbestos exposure. Trauma and surgical repair of a hernia are thought to make a man more likely to develop testicular mesothelioma later in life.

Testicular Mesothelioma Symptoms

Because the incidence of testicular mesothelioma is very small, there is no recognized set of symptoms that defines the disease. Some patients have experienced testicular lumps that provided an indication of illness. Doctors also report associating testicular mesothelioma with a hydrocele (a fluid-filled sac around the testes that causes swelling in the scrotum) that fills very rapidly after being aspirated. Because other forms of mesothelioma are known to cause excess fluid production, this potential symptom seems quite logical. Other than these few warning signs, however, there are no well defined symptoms of testicular mesothelioma.

Testicular Mesothelioma Diagnosis and Treatment

In the small number of known testicular mesothelioma cases, a diagnosis has not generally been achieved until testicular lumps appear. Until this time, the patient does not generally suspect that anything is wrong. In some situations, testicular mesothelioma has been discovered in the course of treatment for an unrelated reason, such as hernia repair. If a doctor believes that testicular mesothelioma might be a possibility, a biopsy can be performed on affected tissue to determine the presence of cancerous cells and asbestos fibers.

Testicular mesothelioma is a very aggressive form of cancer, and it is often discovered after the cancer has progressed to later stages of development.. The typical treatment is to remove part or all of the affected testicle via surgery and follow up with radiation therapy or chemotherapy to eradicate any remaining cells.

One potential complication is that testicular mesothelioma is often a secondary condition that accompanies peritoneal mesothelioma. In these cases, keep in mind that the primary cancer must also be treated.

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