Mesothelioma is a rare, asbestos-related cancer that affects the mesothelium, a lining of tissue that surrounds certain organs and other areas. Testicular mesothelioma is cancer of the lining inside of the scrotum that surrounds the testicles. It the rarest types of this malignant cancer, causing less than 1 percent of new mesothelioma cases each year but is much more treatable than other forms of the disease.
Testicular mesothelioma and other types of the malignancy may take up to 20 to 50 years after asbestos exposure to develop. As mesothelioma diagnosis is so rare, it is important that those who have been told they have testicular mesothelioma should see a mesothelioma specialist for evaluation and treatment.
About Testicular Mesothelioma
Nearly all cases of testicular mesothelioma are caused by asbestos exposure. Asbestos is a naturally-occurring substance that is comprised of needle-like fibers which when inhaled or ingested, may lodge in body tissues. Over a long period of time, asbestos fibers cause genetic mutations and tissue inflammation which cause mesothelial cells to begin dividing uncontrollably and form tumors.
In most cases, testicular mesothelioma is the result of occupational asbestos exposure through prior work in areas such as pipe-fitting, ship building, automotive manufacturing, demolition, construction and the steel industry where it was used as heat insulation. Household members of those workers may also have been exposed through dust which was transported into the home on work clothing. Asbestos is no longer in widespread use but some products still contain asbestos and the long latency time for emergence of the cancer means that many more people are at risk.
Other types of the disease include pleural mesothelioma (lung), peritoneal mesothelioma (abdomen) and pericardial mesothelioma (heart).
Testicular Mesothelioma Symptoms
Symptoms of testicular mesothelioma are caused by tumor formation and inflammation of the sac surrounding the testicles. Fluid collection in the scrotum is also a significant problem and cause of symptoms which may include:
- Testicular pain – from tumor formation and fluid retention
- Scrotal swelling – largely from fluid collection
- Fatigue – a general symptom of inflammation and cancer
- Weight loss – also a general symptom of cancer and malaise
- Fever – from systemic inflammation caused by cancer
Symptoms of testicular mesothelioma usually develop slowly and become worse over time.
Diagnosing Testicular Mesothelioma
As the latency time between exposure to asbestos and the development of testicular mesothelioma is long and the disease is so rare, the patient may initially be misdiagnosed. Testicular mesothelioma, however, is more easily treatable and less likely to metastasize than other types of the cancer.
When symptoms of testicular mesothelioma are persistent and other disorders have been ruled-out, the physician will likely order imaging studies such as:
- CT Scan
- PET Scan
These studies will show development of tumors or and fluid collection in the scrotum. Blood tests may also be used to confirm the presence of certain proteins produced by mesothelioma cells. A biopsy to remove a small amount of tissue will also be performed to identify and confirm the type of tumor cells under microscopic examination.
Staging of Testicular Mesothelioma
Testicular mesothelioma is generally staged but the standard cancer rating system known as TNM. It is based on tumor size (T), lymph node involvement (N) and metastasis or spread of the cancer (M). Earlier stages are the least advanced, while later stages are more serious but testicular mesothelioma often has a much better outcome than other types of the cancer.
- Stage 1 – Tumor cells have not penetrated beyond the mesothelial layer and there are none in surrounding lymph nodes.
- Stage 2 –Tumor is larger but has not spread outside of the scrotal sac and there are cancer cells in some lymph nodes close to the testicles.
- Stage 3 – Tumor is much larger or there is more than one. It has penetrated beyond surrounding tissue such as into the groin muscles. There are also multiple lymph nodes and lymph nodes that are further away that contain cancer cells.
- Stage 4 – Cancer cells have traveled to distant parts of the body and begun growing new tumors of mesothelioma on other organs such as the brain, lungs, kidneys, or liver.
Treatment of Testicular Mesothelioma
Treatment options for testicular mesothelioma are varied and limited by the stage of the cancer but testicular cancer is less likely to metastasize and is often more treatable than other mesotheliomas.
- Surgery – surgical removal of the tumor, along with a healthy area of tissue is commonly performed and may be done alongside other treatment modalities. In more advanced cases, removal of the testicle(s) is required.
- Traditional chemotherapy – medications intended to kill cancer cells may be given as oral medication or through IV infusion. Chemotherapy is often used along with surgery to ensure that all cancer cells have been removed.
- Radiation – radiotherapy is used to focus energy beams on the tumor to kill cancer cells. It is sometimes used with surgery and / or chemotherapy but the patient should be advised that the testicles will likely no longer produce viable sperm.
- Newer treatments – newer medications, procedures and immunotherapy agents which are in development but not yet approved by the FDA may be available as part of an investigational trial.
Testicular Mesothelioma Treatment Cost
The cost of treating any type of mesothelioma is high. In addition to the actual medical costs, testicular mesothelioma victims or their loved ones may have suffered from loss of wages and even loss of life. As a clear link between mesothelioma and asbestos exposure has been shown, some victims have received settlements from mesothelioma lawsuits.
A large fund, still containing an estimated $30 billion, was established to compensate mesothelioma victims and many have received financial assistance. However, each case of testicular mesothelioma is unique and should be evaluated by a legal expert familiar with mesothelioma cases.