During a testicular exam, a professional will feel the organs (testicles, scrotum, lymph nodes) and examine them for the presence of lumps (cysts or cancer), swelling, shrinking (testicular atrophy), congenital abnormalities (such as an absent or undescended testicle), and other signs of abnormalities.
"The most common purpose of this examination
is to detect lumps that may be testicular cancer."
Testicular cancer is most prevalent in men between the ages of 20 - 34. And the medical profession and American Cancer Society recommend that men in the 15 - 40 age group have a testicular exam each year.
But, the American Cancer Society does not recommend screening for men unless they are in a high risk group (as men who have history of testicular cancer in their family). The basic testicular exam is something you can usually easily do yourself.
Unlike a prostate self exam (which is almost impossible to do yourself), this examination is very easy to perform and is quite effective. The testicles are right there and easy to reach. And with a little practice, they are very easy to examine.
If a lump is found during your self testicular exam, you should consult a professional (Urologist). Your Urologist will be able to check and diagnose it for you. Normally this is first done by shining a strong light through it. A tumor is normally a hard mass that the light will not shine through.
But, a common benign hydrocele will allow the allow the light to pass through easily. A hydrocele usually feels like water in a plastic bag.
Your practitioner may also use ultrasound imaging to get a better look. Ultrasound is a very hi-tech, very expensive machine that uses sound waves (instead of light waves) to look inside your body and make photographs. (Ultrasound imaging is commonly used on women to see their developing babies.)
The best time for examining yourself is right after you shower. The warm water relaxes the surrounding skin and muscle tissue and make the testicles very easy to feel. You will examine your testicles more by feel than by sight.
Just stand and place one foot on the edge of the tub or toilet so that your testicles are hanging freely.
Then take one testicle at a time and roll it gently around in your fingers.
If you do this gently, you shouldn't feel any pain during the testicular exam.
Each testicle should be smooth and oval (like a small egg) and firm by not hard. You will also be able to feel the epididymis (a coiled tube that collects and stores sperm) on the back and side of each testicle. Lumps on the epididymis are almost never cancerous.
One testicle may be a little larger than the other. One may hang lower than the other. These things are normal.
If you notice a lump or bump on your testicle you will want to see you Urologist. Testicular cancer often appears as a small pea size bump and is usually painless.
The biggest fear from doing this examination is always the fear of finding testicular cancer. A hard (almost always painless) lump on a testicles is the most obvious symptom.
"If it is found early,
testicular cancer is almost 100% curable."
If left untreated, it may spread throughout the body. Commonly the lymph nodes and lungs.
Testicular cancer is the most common hard tumor found in the testicles of males between the ages of 20 and 34. About 300 men will die from testicular cancer this year.
Testicular tumors are usually found on only 1 testicle. But, in about 2-3% of men, they are found in both testicles. Most testicular tumors (seminomas) show up in the cells that are responsible for producing sperm.
If hard tumors are present, the next step is usually an ultrasound picture examination of the testicle-in-question. Doctors then will look at these pictures to try to determine what the bump may be: A solid tumor. Or, just a cyst of some type.
A hard (almost always painless) lump or ridge on a testicle can be just a cyst. But, it is also the most obvious symptom of a cancerous testicular tumor. That is why it should be checked by a professional.
Other symptoms of testicular cancer can include:
Symptoms that normally do NOT indicate testicular cancer are:
If you have any significant swelling of a testicle (especially with associated pain) you will want to see a professional.
If during your self testicular exam you find only one testicle, you probably have an undescended testicle. Statistically, a man with undescended testicles has an increased risk of infertility, testicular torsion, hernia formation, and testicular cancer.
In babies (like puppies) it may take up to 3 months for the testicles to drop. So don't panic!
If you feel a lot of thin tubes behind a testicle, this is called a varicocele ("bag of worms" or "spaghetti"). Some doctors believe it causes or is caused by low sperm count and they want to operate. Most doctors suggest just leaving it alone.
You may even find a free floating lump in the scrotum that is not attached to the testicles. This usually nothing to be concerned about.
All these things can easily be found in a simple testicular exam.
If you find any of these conditions during your self testicular exam, you will probably want to go see your Urologist to find out what is there. He will re-examine you in a similar way. He just has much more experience in identifying what the problem may be.
Whenever your sexual areas are touched you may get aroused and get an erection. Don't be embarrassed. This is often a normal physical response during a testicular exam, and your health professional is aware of this.
A regular self testicular exam is a great way to monitor the
condition of your testicles. It is very easy to do. If you find any
abnormalities, it is a good idea to get checked by your Urologist.