Testicular self-examination (TSE)
The Cancer Council Australia says that it is sensible for men from puberty onwards to become familiar with the usual level of lumpiness of their testicles and to see their doctor if they notice a change. Men with a family history of testicular cancer (father or brother) or a personal history of absent or undescended testicles in particular should regularly check for lumps or swellings on the surface of the testicles.
The testicles or testes are located beneath the penis and contained within the scrotum. They should be about equal size and feel smooth, rubbery and egg-shaped. The left testicle occasionally hangs lower than the right.
Self-examination of the testes is best done when the scrotum is relaxed, after a warm bath or shower. This will also allow the testicles to drop down completely.
How to do testicular self-examination
Self-examination helps you to get used to the way your testes feel so that you can notice if anything changes.
Examine each testicle gently with both hands. The index and middle fingers are placed below the testicle, while the thumbs are placed on top. With a gentle motion, roll the testicle between the thumbs and fingers.
You may also be able to feel the epididymis — a cord-like structure that runs along the top and back of the testicle and stores and transports sperm.
Feel for any abnormal lumps or swellings and any changes in the consistency, size or shape of the testes.
What to do if you find a lump
If you find a lump or any other abnormality you should contact your doctor immediately. The lump may be due to an infection, cyst or other non-cancerous swelling. Your doctor may recommend an ultrasound to determine the precise nature of the swelling.
Don't worry: the great majority of lumps detected by TSE are not cancer. For the rare ones that are, testicular cancer is highly curable, especially when detected and treated early. Testicular cancer generally occurs in only one testicle, and the other testicle is all that is needed for full sexual function and fertility.
Risk of testicular cancer
Testicular cancer is one of the most curable forms of cancer when detected early and treated promptly. Males who may be at risk of testicular cancer include:
- those with undescended testicles as an infant or young child;
- those with a family history of testicular cancer;
- those with a previous history of testicular cancer; and
- those with rare congenital problems such as Klinefelter’s syndrome.
The jury is still out on whether men whose mothers took a hormone called DES (diethylstilbestrol) during pregnancy to prevent miscarriage have an increased risk of testicular cancer.
2. Andrology Australia. Testicular self-examination (updated 13 Dec 2012). https://www.andrologyaustralia.org/keeping-healthy/tse/ (accessed Apr 2013).
3. MayoClinic.com. Testicular cancer (Updated 15 Oct 2011). http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/testicular-cancer/DS00046/ (accessed Apr 2013).
4. National Cancer Institute at the National Institutes of Health. Diethylstilbestrol (DES) and cancer (updated 5 Oct 2011). http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/factsheet/Risk/DES (accessed Apr 2013).