The first thing most men notice is a lump in their testicle. Quite often, it's a man's partner who spots the change. Some men, but not all, get an ache in their testicle or lower abdomen. It's important to see a doctor if you notice any of these things.
You may have read somewhere, or been told by your doctor or practice nurse, that you should examine your testicles every so often. A good place to do this is in a warm bath or shower, so the skin around your testicles will be relaxed. You're looking for any lumps, swellings, or changes in the size of your testicles. However, it's normal to feel a soft cord or tube at the back of each testicle. It may feel a bit tender. This isn't a lump. The cord stores sperm and carries them from your testicles to your penis. It's nothing to worry about.
One testicle usually hangs slightly lower than the other. But apart from this, most men's testicles are pretty much the same. So, if you're not sure whether something is wrong, you can always compare one of your testicles with the other.
Occasionally, men notice other problems that can be a sign of testicular cancer. For more information, see What are the symptoms of testicular cancer?
There hasn't been much research on examining yourself regularly. We don't know whether it makes a difference to how soon you spot a lump, so don't feel too bad if you haven't been doing it. The important thing to know is that there's a chance that a lump could be cancer. So, if you do find a lump, see a doctor as soon as you can.
Seeing your doctor
Your doctor will examine your lump to see whether it could be cancer. Some men don't like to see a doctor if they think their problem might not be serious. You may worry about wasting your doctor's time. Or you may feel embarrassed. Men sometimes wait and hope that their lump will go away on its own. But cancer is a disease that can spread through your body over time. Don't wait for your symptoms to get worse. It's important to get any sort of lump checked, and the sooner the better.
If you're not registered with a GP, you should be able to register and make an appointment at the same time. Or, if you live in a large town or a city, there may be an NHS walk-in centre nearby. You can drop in without needing to make an appointment.
Your doctor will examine you. He or she may shine a light on your scrotum to see if light passes through your lump. If the lump is cancer, light won't pass through it. Your doctor will ask you some questions, such as when you first noticed the lump. You'll also be asked about your health in general.
If your doctor thinks there's a chance your lump could be cancer, he or she will refer you to a specialist for more tests.
Guidelines for doctors say that all men with suspected testicular cancer should be seen by a specialist. You should be able to see a specialist quickly, within a couple of weeks at the most.