What is a testicular self-exam?
A testicular self-exam is a cancer-screening test that men can do themselves. The purpose of the exam is to look for any unusual lumps, swellings, tenderness, or excess fluid in or around the testicles. These are possible signs of cancer. Testicular cancer can grow quickly, especially in young men. Treatment can be more effective when the cancer is found early.
The testicles are part of the male reproductive organs. They are in a sac of loose skin, called the scrotum or scrotal sac, which is below the penis.
Who should do a testicular self-exam?
Regular self-exams are recommended for men who have a higher risk for testicular cancer. The risk factors are:
- a testicle that did not move down into the scrotum before
birth (undescended testicle)
- a history of cancer in the other testicle
- a family history of testicular cancer
- abnormal development of the testicles, penis, or kidneys.
There is some evidence that men who are HIV positive, especially those with AIDS, may be more likely to develop cancer of the testicle.
There are other reasons to check the testicles. Checking your genital area can help you find signs of sexually transmitted infection, such as genital warts and herpes, which you might not notice otherwise.
How do I do a testicular exam?
To perform the exam:
- Stand in front of a mirror and look for any signs of swelling.
- Support each testicle with one hand and feel it with your other hand.
- Roll each testicle between the thumb and fingers, feeling for any unusual lumps. Lumps may be as small as a grain of rice and are usually quite firm, like hard rubber. (It is normal to feel a soft cordlike structure on the top and back of each testicle. This is the epididymis, which is the tube through which sperm pass during an orgasm.)
- Check for areas that feel tender.
When should I call my healthcare provider?
It is normal for one testicle to be slightly larger than the other. If you find a hard mass in either testicle, you should see your healthcare provider right away. Growths that you notice may not be cancer, but you need to report any changes to your provider promptly. Remember that testicular cancer is highly curable when caught early.
Disclaimer: This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information provided is intended to be informative and educational and is not a replacement for professional medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
HIA File mens4611.htm Release 13/2010