DISCLAIMER: This blog contains anatomically correct graphics of male genitalia below.
If you were a caregiver, would you consider an easy, painless (and free) cancer screening for the young men in your life? Of course you would! Thankfully, regular testicular self-examination is a simple screening tool for testicular cancer, which can develop in one or both testicles.
Testicular cancer might be rare, but it’s one of the most commonly seen forms of cancer in men ages 15-35. Most men with testicular cancer are diagnosed from ages 15-44, a range encompassing male adolescents and teenagers who walk through our door at Texas Children’s.
Over 9,000 new cases of testicular cancer are diagnosed in the U.S. each year, and 400 men are estimated to die from the disease. Risk factors such as age, family history and undescended testicles cannot be prevented, and many men who develop testicular cancer have no risk factors or symptoms involved. This makes early detection critically important.
Thankfully, testicular cancer is one of the most treatable forms of cancer, especially if it’s caught early. If detected at an early stage, the survival rate is nearly 100 percent. Summertime is “check-up season” for most pediatricians like myself, so I hope this serves as a nice reminder for the younger men in our community. These self-examinations save lives!
During a testicular self-examination, you thoroughly feel each testicle for abnormal size or lumps/bumps. See below for a step-by-step guide, courtesy of TeensHealth.
If changes are detected, it’s important to reach out to your child’s pediatrician immediately for evaluation.
A testicular self‑exam (TSE) is an easy way for guys to check their own testicles to make sure there aren't any unusual lumps or bumps — which can be the first sign of testicular cancer. Try to do a TSE every month so you become familiar with the size and shape of your testicles. This makes it easier to tell if something feels different or abnormal down there.
Step 1: Getting started
Choose the right time to do your exam. It's best to do it during or just after a hot shower or bath. The scrotum (skin that covers the testicles) is most relaxed then, which makes it easier to feel the testicles for lumps. Lumps may be as small as a piece of rice or a pea.
Step 2: Place your hand
Examine one testicle at a time. Start by gently gripping the top of the scrotum, with your thumb on top and your fingers underneath. Pinch gently so that the testicle stays put and won't move during the exam. Between your fingers, you should feel the spermatic cord. This connects the testicle to the rest of your body.
Step 3: Feel for lumps
With your free hand, glide your thumb and fingers along both sides of the testicle, from top to bottom. Feel for any lumps or bumps. Then, glide your fingers over the front and back of the testicle. On the back at the top, you should feel the epididymis, a tube that carries sperm. This is a normal lump and may feel tender to the touch.
Tell your doctor right away if you notice any swelling, lumps, or changes in the size or color of a testicle. Also tell your doctor if you have any pain or achy areas in your groin. Lumps or swelling may not be cancer, but should be checked by your doctor as soon as possible. Testicular cancer is almost always curable if it is caught and treated early.
If you're interested in learning more about testicular cancer, click here.