What is a testicular self-exam?
A testicular self-exam is a check of your testicles for problems that may be a sign of cancer. The testicles are part of the male sex organs. They are in a sac of loose skin, called the scrotum or scrotal sac, which is below and behind the penis. When you do a testicular self-exam, you check for any unusual lumps, swellings, tenderness, or excess fluid in or around the testicles.
Self-exams help you know what your testicles look and feel like, which helps you notice changes that need to be checked by your healthcare provider. When testicular cancer is found early and treated right away, the chances for a cure are much better. Testicular cancer can grow quickly, especially in young men.
Who should do a testicular self-exam?
Your healthcare provider may recommend that you do a self-exam of your testicles every month. Checking your genital area can help you find signs of sexually transmitted infection, such as genital warts, or other problems that you might not notice otherwise.
How do I do a testicular 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 your 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 tube that sperm passes through when you have an orgasm.
- Check for areas that feel tender.
If you want to check if you are doing the exam the right way, ask your healthcare provider to show you how to do it.
When should I call my healthcare provider?
Most changes are not a sign of cancer, but the only way to be sure is to see your healthcare provider. If you notice any of the following changes in your testicles, see your provider right away for an exam:
- A lump in a testicle (usually not painful)
- A testicle that has gotten bigger or has changed in the way it feels
- A dull ache or a feeling of heaviness in your scrotum, lower back, or lower belly
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