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Testicular awareness

This factsheet is for men who would like information about being testicle aware.

Being testicle aware means knowing how the testicles look and feel, and knowing what changes to look for. It can help to find lumps and swellings that may be testicular cancer.

Click on the tabs below for more information about testicular awareness.

Published by Bupa's Health Information Team, September 2010

About

About

Your testicles are two small oval-shaped organs found inside your scrotum, the loose pouch of skin that hangs below your penis. Your testicles have two main functions -they produce sperm and the hormone testosterone.

Sperm are created in your testicles and then they move into the epididymis (a long narrow tube inside the testicle) where they are stored for several weeks to help them mature. When you ejaculate, sperm move from your epididymis to the ejaculatory duct where they are mixed with liquid called semen.

Testosterone is a male sex hormone. It's what causes you to have a deep voice, beard hair, develop muscle and the ability to have an erection. Testosterone is also what gives you your sex drive (libido).

Testicular cancer is a relatively rare cancer, however it is the most common form of cancer in men aged 20 to 39. Examining your testicles regularly could help you pick up testicular cancer at the early stages. Cancers which are found earlier are easier to treat, which is why it's important to know what is normal for you. Testicular cancer in particular is almost always cured by a simple operation if it's diagnosed early enough. However, many patients delay seeing a doctor, by which time the cancer has spread. If you don't see your doctor straight away, then you may need more complex treatment including chemotherapy or radiotherapy.

By knowing how your testicles normally look and feel, you can spot any changes quickly. Of course, most lumps in testicles aren't cancer; they can be caused by other conditions, such as a cyst or a hydrocele (a collection of fluid in your scrotum). However it's always best to check with a doctor if you notice anything abnormal.

How to be testicle aware

How to be testicle aware

All men's bodies are slightly different, so it's important to know the look and feel of your own testicles. Knowing what's right for you will help you spot any changes quickly.

From puberty onwards, you should check your testicles regularly every month. The best time to do this is during or soon after a warm bath or shower, when the skin of your scrotum is relaxed.
Hold your scrotum in the palms of both hands. Feel the size and weight of each testicle. It's very common to have one testicle that is larger or hangs lower than the other.

Get to know the feel of each testicle by rolling each one between your finger and thumb. They should feel smooth, without any lumps or swellings. Compare each testicle - get to know any differences between them.

Towards the top at the back of each testicle you will feel a soft, tender tube. This is the epididymis. Don't confuse this with a lump - it's meant to be there.

Changes to seek advice about

Changes to seek advice about

When you examine your testicles, you should be looking for:

  • a painless lump or hardening in either testicle
  • an unusual collection of fluid in your scrotum
  • a feeling of heaviness in your scrotum
  • swelling or enlargement of either testicle
Other general changes to look out for are:

  • pain or discomfort in your testicle or scrotum
  • a dull ache in the lower part of your back, tummy (abdomen), scrotum or groin
  • swollen, tender breasts or tender nipples - this can be caused by hormone changes
These symptoms aren't always caused by testicular cancer but if you have them, see a doctor.

Sources

Sources

  • Check your testicles for signs of testicular cancer. Cancer Research UK, published September 2009
  • http://info.cancerresearchuk.org, published June 2010
  • Testicular self-examination. Cancer Research UK, published November 2009
  • Testicular cancer symptoms. Cancer Research UK, published November 2009
  • Self-examination sheet. Orchid, published February 2007
  • Testicular cancer. Orchid, accessed 11 June 2010
  • Testicular self examination (TSE). Macmillan Cancer Support, published December 2009

This information was published by Bupa's Health Information Team and is based on reputable sources of medical evidence. It has been peer reviewed by Bupa doctors. This content was compiled by Bupa based on clinical information and practice current as at the stated date of publication. Content is likely to reflect clinical practice in a particular geographical region (as indicated by the sources cited) – accordingly, it may not reflect clinical practice in the reader’s country of habitation. This content is intended for general information only and does not replace the need for personal advice from a qualified health professional. Photos and videos are only for illustrative purposes and do not reflect every presentation of a condition.

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