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Do You Have Testicular Cancer? Why Every Man Should Perform a Testicular Self Exam (TSE) -- and How to Do It


Testicular self-exams (TSEs) are an important way for men to detect any changes in their groin area, including those that could indicate a tumor or testicular cancer. Experts advise teens begin TSEs at the age of 14 or 15, because testicular cancer is actually most common in men ages 20-35.

Help look out for the health of your loved ones and pass this important article along to all of the men in your life.

More importantly, testicular cancer is highly treatable when it's found early, which is why performing TSEs on a regular basis is so important. If you do find something abnormal, it's important to have it checked out by a doctor, but don't worry. Not all lumps are cancer, and testicular cancer is actually quite uncommon.

A man's lifetime chance of getting testicular cancer is about 1 in 300, according to the American Cancer Society, and the risk of dying from it is 1 in 5,000.

How to Perform a Testicular Self Exam

Men should examine their testicles for lumps at least once a month. This should ideally be done after a shower or bath, as the heat from the water relaxes your scrotum, which makes it easier to find abnormalities.

To conduct a TSE, follow these steps from the Mayo Clinic:

  • Stand in front of a mirror. Look for any swelling on the skin of the scrotum.

  • Examine each testicle with both hands. Place the index and middle fingers under the testicle while placing your thumbs on the top.

  • Gently roll the testicle between the thumbs and fingers. Feel for lumps and bumps. Remember that the testicles are usually smooth, oval shaped and somewhat firm.

  • If you find a lump, call your doctor as soon as possible.

What Should You be Watching Out for?

As you conduct the self-exam, keep in mind that normal testicles have an epididymis (a small "bump" on the upper or middle outer side of the testis), blood vessels, supporting tissues, and tubes that conduct sperm, all of which can feel lumpy or bumpy.

If you experience any pain or swelling, or detect any lumps, see a doctor, preferably a urologist, to make sure nothing's wrong.

As you grow more familiar with your testicles, you'll be able to determine what's normal, and what's unusual for your body. Some things to watch out for include:

  • Lumps

  • Swelling

  • A heavy-feeling testicle

  • Pain in your testicles

  • Any enlargement of a testicle

  • A significant loss of size in one of the testicles

  • One testicle larger than the other. While it's normal to have one testicle slightly larger than the other, a change in size may be cause for concern (though not likely cancer-related).

  • Bumps on the skin of your scrotum. This could be a sign of a rash, ingrown hairs or other skin problem.

In short, if you detect any pain, swelling or lumps (even non-painful ones) in your testicles or groin area, you should see a doctor immediately.

Why Haven't I Heard of Testicular Self Exams Before?

Some public health agencies are stopping short of recommending TSEs for all men simply because they haven't been studied enough to show they cause a reduction in the death rate from testicular cancer.

That said, the American Cancer Society recommends getting a testicular exam by your doctor as part of a routine cancer-related checkup, and recommends men at risk of testicular cancer do monthly self-exams as well. You may be at an increased risk of testicular cancer if:

  • You have an undescended testicle

  • You have a family history of the disease

  • You've had cancer in the other testicle

  • You have carcinoma in situ of the testicles, or an overgrowth of cells that may progress to cancer

  • You're white (white men have a 5 times greater risk of testicular cancer than African American men, and a 3 times greater risk than Asian Americans and American Indians)

  • You're tall (some studies have found that tall men have a greater risk of testicular cancer)

Even if you're not at an increased risk, though, monthly TSEs take just a few minutes, and are a simple way to watch for any potential health concerns.

Recommended Reading

Lumps and Bumps to Watch Out For: Detecting Cancer & Other Health Issues

8 Natural Options to Relieve Cancer-Related Pain


American Cancer Society

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