Difference Between Testicular Cancer and Cyst (Scrotal Cyst)

The key difference between Testicular Cancer and Cyst is that testicular cancer is a cancerous growth in the testis that can affect other organs as in the case of any other cancers while scrotal cysts are benign cystic growths arising from any structure inside the scrotum. Although they are not dangerous as cancers, they may need treatment at some point.

What is Testicular Cancer?

Testicular cancers can be of many types. Teratoma and seminoma are some common varieties out of these. Testicular cancer is seen among the relatively young age group. If detected early, when the cancer is confined to the scrotum, it has a good cure rate. However, if it has spread outside the scrotum, cure rate is less. Testicular cancer can indicate many non-specific symptoms such as heaviness in the a scrotum, lump in the testis or sharp pain or a dull ache. Pain is not a differentiating feature for testicular cancer, and many other benign conditions can give rise to testicular pain. Therefore, any testicular lump should be carefully investigated to exclude testicular cancer. Ultrasonic scan of the scrotum can detect lumps with malignant potential. Biopsy and histology will give the definitive diagnosis. These cancers secrete many types of hormones. These hormones can be useful as biomarkers to detect cancers. Some examples are alpha-fetoprotein, human chorionic gonadotropin (the “pregnancy hormone”), and LDH-1. Once the cancer is diagnosed, staging is needed  to decide on the extent of distant spread. This is done by scanning. Depending the stage of the cancer, treatment is decided. Orchiectomy is the surgical removal of the testis which is even curative at early stages. Additionally, the patient is offered hormone ablation therapy, radiotherapy or chemotherapy. Once the treatment is completed regular follow-up is required to detect any recurrences.

Micrograph of a seminoma

What is Testicular Cyst (Scrotal Cyst)?

Scrotal cysts can arise from any structure located inside the scrotum. Below mentioned are some of the benign cysts of the scrotum.

  • Spermatocele (epididymal cyst) – Spermatocele is a painless, benign, fluid-filled sac in the scrotum, usually above the testicle.
  • Epididymitis – This is an inflammation of the epididymis (comma-shaped structure above and behind the testicle that stores and transports sperm). This a painful condition and caused by bacteria.
  • Orchitis – This is an inflammation of the testicle usually due to a viral infection, most commonly mumps.
  • Hydrocele – Hydrocele occurs when there is excess fluid accumulation between the layers of a sac that surrounds each testicle.
  • Varicocele – This is the enlargement of the veins within the scrotum. Varicocele is more common on the left side of the scrotum.
  • Inguinal Hernia – This is a condition in which a portion of the small intestine pushes through an opening or weak spot in the abdominal wall

Most important fact is, it is important to differentiate these benign conditions by careful clinical and radiological examination as these conditions are easily treatable. Long standing conditions can cause infertility. Therefore, early treatment will result in better outcomes.

Micrograph of a spermatocele.

What is the difference between Testicular Cancer and Cyst?

Definition of Testicular Cancer and Cyst

Testicular cancer: Testicular cancer is a malignant tumor of the male sex organ (testicle) that normally produces the hormone testosterone.

Scrotal cysts:  Scrotal cysts are benign cystic growths arising from any structure inside the scrotum.

Characteristics of Testicular Cancer and Cyst


Testicular cancer: Testicular cancer occurs as a result of genetic mutations.

Scrotal cysts: Scrotal cysts are mostly idiopathic, and some are due to infections.

Age Distribution

Testicular cancer: Testicular cancer is common among young people.

Scrotal cysts: No age specification can be identified for scrotal cysts.


Testicular cancer: Testicular cancer causes hard lumps in the testis. However, this is not a specific symptom or sign.

Scrotal cysts: Scrotal cysts cause cystic dilatation of the scrotum.


Testicular cancer: Testicular cancer needs imaging, histology and biomarker detection in the diagnosis.

Scrotal cysts: Scrotal cysts can be easily identified by clinical examination.


Testicular cancer: Testicular cancer needs orchiectomy, hormonal therapy, chemotherapy or radiotherapy.

Scrotal cysts: For most of the scrotal cysts, surgical removal is enough.


Testicular cancer: Testicular cancer has a poor prognosis if it has spread outside the scrotum.

Scrotal cysts: Benign scrotal cysts are having a good prognosis if treated early.


Image Courtesy:

“Seminoma” by Nephron – Own work. (CC BY-SA 3.0) via Commons

“Spermatocele – very high mag”.( CC BY-SA 3.0) via Commons