Sertoli Cell Tumour

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Sertoli cells are those which act as nurse cells to the developing spermatozoa. The sertoli cells engulf the spermatozoa, are structurally important in the seminiferous tubules and form the blood-testis barrier.

Sertoli cell tumours are more common and appear earlier in retained abdominal or inguinal testes than in scrotal testes.

They are not as common as the interstitial cell tumour, but about as common as the seminoma.

The tumours are usually slow growing although 10-20% show malignant characteristics.

Functional oestrogen-secreting tumours occur in about 30% of cases and are more common in retained testes.

Sertoli cell tumours are more common in the older dogs and rare in cats due to widespread neutering.

Clinical Signs

Sertoli cell tumours are usually associated with enlargement or distortion of the affected testis, but this may be difficult to appreciate, and impossible to appreciate when the testis is intra-abdominal.

The contralateral testis is often atrophied.

Functional Sertoli cell tumours frequently result in feminisation and symmetrical alopecia, with signs including:

pendulous prepuce
squatting to urinate
attractiveness to male dogs
decreased libido and infertility
prostate enlargement and squamous metaplasia

Skin changes might include: bilateral symmetrical non pruritic alopecia, hyperpigmentation, seborrhea and otitis externa.

If bone marrow suppression occurs, systemic signs such as dullness, anaemia and thrombocytopaenia will be present.


Physical examination may reveal a mass or there may be cryptorchidism.

Haematology and biochemistry will help identify bone marrow suppression.

Abdominal radiography and ultrasonography will help detect internal tumours.

Cytology or histopathology from the excised testicle will help diagnose the tumour and differentiate it from other tumours.

Histopathological findings include: tubes of neoplastic cells separated by thick collagenous connective tissue septa. Spermatogenic cells and interstitial cells are rare. The pallisaded tumour cells are long and fusiform and in some areas spill out of the tubules into the stroma. It is difficult to classify benign from malignant forms but some malignant tumours show distinguishing features.

'Cytology of the sublumbar, internal iliac and mesenteric lymph nodes should be performed if metastasis is suspected.


Treatment involves castration. Alopecia and feminisation should resolve within 2-6 weeks unless functional metastases or extratesticular tumours are present.

If metastasis occurs chemotherapy is a possible treatment option.

Sertoli Cell Tumour Learning Resources
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Test your knowledge using flashcard type questions
Small Animal Abdominal and Metabolic Disorders Q&A 19


Pasquini, C. (1999) Tschauner's Guide to Small Animal Clinics Sudz Publishing

Moulton, J. (1978) Tumours in domestic animals University of California Press

Harvey, R. (2009) A colour handbook of skin diseases of the dogs and cat Manson Publishing

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