Doing a Testicular Self-Exam (TSE) is easy and should only take about 2-3 minutes. All you have to do is check your testicles (your “balls”) to feel for lumps, bumps, and any changes in how they feel. You should do this once a month.
Why should I do a TSE?
Although rare, testicular cancer occurs mostly in young men between the ages of 15 and 39. It can be cured about 99% of the time if it is caught early, such as through a testicular self-exam. The problem is that young men may not check their testicles or they may be too embarrassed to tell someone that they think something is wrong. If left undetected, testicular cancer may spread to other parts of the body at which point it is harder to treat and may even cause death.
Lance Armstrong (cyclist), Mike Lowell (former Major League Baseball player), and Tom Green (comedian/former MTV host) have all had testicular cancer. They have all recovered from cancer and are spokesmen for testicular cancer awareness.
How do I do a TSE?
The best place to do a TSE is in a warm shower. The heat causes the testicles to hang low in the scrotum (skin sac), making them easier to examine. Gently roll each testicle between your thumb and forefinger. Feel for any lumps and bumps on the surface of the testicles. Make sure you examine the whole surface of the testicle.
The testicle should be round, firm, and smooth. You should be able to feel the epididymis and vas deferens. These are tube-like structures that run along the top and back of each testicle. They carry sperm from the testicles to the penis. It is normal for one testicle to be a little larger than the other. It is also normal for one testicle to hang a little lower in the scrotum than the other.
When should I talk to someone?
You should see a health provider if:
- You notice a lump on one testicle that isn’t on the other
- One testicle is much larger than the other
- One testicle is much harder or softer than the other
- You develop swelling or heaviness in the scrotum
- You have pain in the scrotum or abdomen
- You notice any change from one month to the next
This is no time to be shy, embarrassed, or macho. Just because you feel a lump doesn’t mean that you have cancer, but you should always have it checked out by your health care provider right away. Don’t wait to see if the lump, swelling, hardness or heaviness will go away on its own. Delaying a treatment doesn’t help!