Testicular Self-Exam

Men need to know what is normal for their own bodies, this includes the genital area.  Men should do a testicular and scrotal exam monthly in order to become familiar with what is normal for them and to spot any changes that may indicate a serious problem, such as testicular cancer.  Using the first day of each month is an excellent reminder, but any day works.  Abnormalities may be difficult to spot if exams are not performed regularly.  Men should become familiar with the size, shape, firmness, and texture of his testicles and scrotum.  If any changes occur, he will be better able to recognize something is different and seek medical attention sooner.  Performing this exam more often can actually be less effective since gradual changes won’t become as apparent because there will be little change – so once a month is ideal.

Self-exams are best performed during or right after a warm shower or bath.  The warmth of the water causes the scrotum to relax, making it easier to feel the testicles.  Below is a guide for performing a self-exam:

 

shutterstock_1056517205 copy.jpg
  • Testicles are normally firm, smooth (no lumps), and oval-shaped. 

  • You may feel that the rear of the testicle is somewhat soft and slightly bulging.  As stated before, this is the epididymis attached to the rear of the testicle – this difference in texture is completely normal. 

  • You may notice that one testicle is slightly larger than the other.  This should not be a concern as this is completely normal.

  • You can also feel the spermatic cord above the testicles and gently follow it up to the top of the scrotum.  This can be sensitive and some men skip this step.  However, if this cord feels like a bag of worms, it may indicate swollen blood vessels called varicoceles (click HERE to learn more) and may be something you want to talk about with your healthcare provider.

  • After the shower, examine your scrotum by standing in front of a mirror to see if there is any swelling or color changes in the scrotum. 

 

Become accustomed to the feel of your testicles.  Again, you are familiarizing yourself with what is normal so you can identify any changes should they occur. 

If you feel a lump or any other alteration you know is out of the ordinary for your scrotum and testicles, contact your healthcare provider.  It is important not to leave anything suspicious to chance.  Testicular cancers are highly treatable when they are caught early.  By doing a monthly self-exam you can increase your chances of catching cancer early should it occur.  If you feel a firm spot inside the body of the testicle, see a healthcare provider (preferably a urologist) immediately.[i]

Some men may be apprehensive about performing a self-exam.  They may worry about becoming sexually aroused during a self-exam.  If this happens, simply discontinue the examination and try again another day.  This is good advice for a couple of reasons.  First, it will be hard to find an abnormality on the testicles when aroused since the scrotum pulls the testicles towards the body during an erection, making it difficult to examine them appropriately.  Second, it can be sexually stimulating to continue examining the scrotum and; therefore, difficult to determine any changes when the scrotum is pulled tight during arousal.  So, skipping and trying another day is perfectly fine.  You may need to make individual adaptations to the self-exam until you are comfortable with examining yourself. 

Parents may consider having their sons perform self-exams since boys and teenagers can develop testicular cancer as well.

 

Testicular and Scrotal Abnormalities

Some men may notice a change either in the appearance of the scrotum or a change in the feel, size, shape, tenderness, or firmness of the testicles.  Men may also notice a lump or find that a testicle will go “missing” (click HERE to learn more).  All of these should trigger a man to seek the input of a healthcare provider to ensure these changes are not something more serious.  In the following sections we will discuss disorders that can affect the outer scrotal skin , as well as disorders that cause pain or swelling in the scrotum or testicles.

 

[i] Mayo Clinic. “Scrotal Masses.

 

”  Note:  This source was used as a basis for a self-exam.  The Mayo Clinics recommend starting self-exams at age 15 rather than the onset of puberty or age 12.  The recommendation for an earlier age are given in this site due to the risk of testicular cancer at ages earlier than 15. 

Images on this page from top to bottom include:

  1. EniaB/Shutterstock.com