The best way to monitor for testicular cancer is through regular self-exam. All boys from the start of puberty on should do self-examinations.
Why do I need to do a testicular self-exam?
A monthly testicular self-exam is a good way for you to become familiar with your testicle area. By becoming familiar with how it feels when everything is normal will make it easier to notice if something ever does change. By checking monthly, you are able to determine if anything feels different than the previous months. These exams can help you to identify any potential problems, such as testicular cancer. Lumps or changes you note during a self exam aren’t necessarily cancer but should still be examined by a health provider.
When should I do the exam?
You’ve entered puberty, which means you should start to take on the responsibility of your own health. By doing these exams every month you are taking a big responsibility of looking after you and your testicular health.
It is best to do the exam once a month. Ideally you should examine yourself after a warm bath or shower, the warm water relaxes the scrotum making it easier to notice any abnormalities.
How do I perform the exam?
- Stand in front of a mirror naked to examine for any abnormal swelling of the scrotum. Hold your penis out of the way so you can see the entire scrotum.
- Examine each testicle with both hands.
- Place the index and middle fingers under the testicle with the thumbs on top. Roll the testicle gently between the thumbs and fingers. Feel and look for any lumps or any changes in size, shape or feeling of the testicle.
Some things that you may notice that are usually normal:
- You may notice one testicle appears to be slightly larger than the other. It is normal for one testicle to be a bit larger than the other. You should watch for any changes in their size over time.
- You feel a long rope-like cord on the top of the back of each testicle that runs up towards your abdomen. This is your epididymis, which is a soft tube-like structure that collects and carries sperm.
- Your left scrotum hangs a bit lower than the right side. It is normal in most males that the left side is positioned slightly lower than the right.
Contact your health provider if you notice:
- A lump or swelling in a testicle or in the scrotum
- Pain or discomfort in the testicle or scrotum
- A change in the size of a testicle
- A change in the feeling of a testicle
- A change in the color of your scrotum
- A feeling of heaviness in the scrotum
- A feeling of a dull ache in the lower abdomen, back or groin
Remember that not all unusual findings are due to testicular cancer, but they should be examined by a health provider. Testicular cancer is most curable when found early, so if you think you may have found something that may not be normal or is worrisome, contact your doctor’s office for an appointment. You should never feel embarrassed to ask your doctor or any member of your health care team a question about your health or something you feel or experience during a testicular self-exam. It is always better to be safe than sorry.