Did you know April is Testicular Cancer Awareness month? In honor, we thought we’d go over what testicular cancer is, the symptoms and how to do a self-exam.
At many of our school cancer education outreaches , we are sometimes approached privately by young men who are concerned with some aspect of their genitalia. Something doesn’t seem right but they are not really sure what is normal.
So, along with providing information about breast cancer, healthy breasts and performing breast self-exams, we also provide health information about testicular self-exams, including hands-on instruction using testicular models.
What is Testicular Cancer?
While relatively rare, testicular cancer is the most common cancer in American males between the ages of 15-35. Self-exams can really pay off because testicular cancer, when detected early, has a nearly 99% survival rate.
This type of cancer occurs in the testicles, which are located inside the scrotum. The testicles produce male sex hormones and sperm.
How Does A Testicular Self-Examination Help?
Simple self-exam techniques can help you learn how your testicles normally look and feel so that you can become aware of any changes that happen over time. Generally speaking, the more you know about what’s normal for your body, the more likely you are to get ahead of many health issues, not just cancer. Testicular exams just take about 5 mins of your time, once a month, and can help to identify this cancer at its earliest stage.
Symptoms of Testicular Cancer
A lump or swelling on the testicle is usually the first symptom. It’s important to note that you may not have pain with this lump or swelling, but it may still be cancer.
Other symptoms include:
- a feeling of weight in the scrotum
- Pain or a dull ache in the testicle, scrotum or groin
- Tenderness or changes in the male breast tissue
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How To Do A Testicular Exam
The shower is the best place to perform a self-exam, since the steam relaxes your scrotum and makes it easier to feel around.
But, before you shower (or just after!) take a moment to stand in front of a mirror (best way) or just look down and check for any swelling on the scrotal skin. Here’s some tips:
- Check one testicle at a time
- Hold your testicle between your thumbs and fingers of both hands and roll it gently between your fingers to feel inside.
- Most men’s testicles are about the same size, though it’s common for one to be slightly bigger than the other. It’s also common for one testicle to hang lower than the other.
- The testicles should feel smooth, without any lumps or bumps, and firm but not hard. You may feel a soft, coiled tube at the back of each testicle, which is called the epididymis, and it is perfectly normal.
- Normal testicles also contain blood vessels and supporting tissues. Some men may confuse these with abnormal lumps at first. If you have any concerns, ask your doctor.
- You should not feel any pain when performing the self-exam. Be aware of any dull soreness or heaviness. The testicles should be smooth and firm to the touch.
- MOST IMPORTANT STEP: If you notice hard lumps, smooth or rounded bumps, changes in shape, size, or consistency, contact a qualified medical professional as soon as possible. A urologist is the best type of doctor to make an accurate diagnosis, but if you feel more comfortable with your primary care provider, start with them. And if you don’t feel comfortable at all, give us a call and we will help you through this. (link to our contact/email)
- It can be scary to find a lump in your testes! In fact, many men who find one wait several months before seeking medical assistance. This is a bad idea. Testicular cancer will not go away on its own. Remember, know health care providers—males and females—are very familiar with male reproductive anatomy and issues that come up. You don’t have to be embarrassed or scared or think that you are the only person who has this. Chances are, your health care provider deals with this on a daily basis.
For more information, including a video and simple instructions on performing testicle exams, check out these these short videos: