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Testicular self-examination and preventing testicular cancer

Regular self-checking of the testicles for any unusual lumps or swellings is an important step a man can take to help identify testicular cancer early when treatment has a better chance of being successful.

Testicular cancer has a very good cure rate when it has been detected and treated early, and monthly self-examination is a good way to help identify problems.

Most lumps that are found are nothing to worry about, but should be checked by a doctor to make sure.

How can I protect myself from testicular cancer?

You can help identify testicular cancer early and reduce the risk of complications from testicular cancer by doing a monthly testicular self-examination. Testicular self-examination is a way that men can examine themselves to look for signs of cancer of the testicles. To do a self-examination, follow these steps:

  • Do the examination after a warm shower or bath. The warmth relaxes the skin of the scrotum, making it easier to feel for anything unusual.
  • Use both hands to examine each testicle. Place your index and middle fingers underneath the testicle and your thumbs on top. Roll the testicle between your thumbs and fingers. (It's normal for testicles to be different in size.)
  • As you feel the testicle, you may notice a cord-like structure on top and at the back of the testicle. This structure is called the epididymis. It stores and transports sperm. Do not confuse it with a lump.
  • Feel for any lumps. Lumps can be pea-size or larger and are often painless. If you notice a lump, seek medical advice. Also check for any change in size, shape, or consistency of the testes.

After a while, you will know how your testicles feel and will be more alert to any changes.

Symptoms of testicular cancer include:

Symptoms of testicular cancer include:

  • A lump in either testicle.
  • An enlarged or swollen testicle.
  • A dull ache in the lower abdomen or groin.
  • A sudden gathering of fluid in the scrotum.
  • Feeling of heaviness in the scrotum.

Read more about the symptoms, diagnosis and treatment of testicular cancer.

What should I do if I have symptoms of testicular cancer?

If you have symptoms of testicular cancer, don't panic. Many times, changes in the testicles are not cancer. But, you should seek medical advice to find the cause of your symptoms.

What should I expect when I go to the doctor?

During your visit, you will be asked to talk about your symptoms and any illnesses you have had in the past. The doctor will feel the scrotum for lumps. Samples of blood and urine may be taken for testing. You may be referred for an ultrasound examination of the scrotum and its contents - ultrasound is a painless test that creates images by using high-frequency sound waves that are transmitted through body tissues. You may also be referred for a chest X-ray, and then referred to a specialist who will examine you and can organise a computerised tomography (CT) scan.

When cancer is present, the testicle must be removed. Removing the testicle should not lead to problems with having children or sex. The remaining testicle will continue making sperm and the male hormone testosterone. To re-establish a normal appearance, a man may be able to have a testicular prosthesis surgically implanted in the scrotum which looks and feels like a normal testicle.

Can testicular cancer be cured?

According to the NHS over 95% of men with early stage testicular cancer will be cured.

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WebMD Medical Reference

Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks on December 23, 2015

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