Testicular self-examination

Definition

This is an examination of the testicles to look for lumps that may be testicular cancer. The testicles are the male reproductive organs, and produce sperm and the hormone testosterone. They are located in the scrotum under the penis.

The exam should be performed on a monthly basis if you have a family history of this cancer, had a previous testicular tumor, or have an undescended testicle.

How the test is performed

Perform this test during or after a shower. This way, the scrotal skin is warm and relaxed. The test is best done while standing.

  1. Gently feel your scrotal sac to locate a testicle.
  2. Firmly but gently roll the testicle between the thumb and fingers of both hands to examine the entire surface.
  3. Repeat the procedure with the other testicle.

Why the test is performed
The test checks for testicular cancer.

Normal Values

Each testicle should feel firm but not rock hard. One testicle may or may not be lower or slightly larger than the other. Normal testicles contain blood vessels and other structures that can make the exam confusing. Performing the self-exam monthly allows you to become familiar with your normal anatomy. Then, if you notice any changes from the previous exam, this alerts you to contact your doctor. Always ask you doctor if you have any doubts or questions.

What abnormal results mean


If you find a small hard lump (like a pea), have an enlarged testicle, or notice any other concerning differences from your last self-exam, see your doctor as soon as you can.

Consult your doctor if:

     
  • You can’t find one or both testicles - the testicles may not have descended properly in the scrotum  
  • There is a soft collection of thin tubes above the testicle - it may be a collection of dilated veins (varicocele)  
  • There is pain or swelling in the scrotum - it may be an infection or a fluid-filled sac (hydrocele) causing blockage of blood flow to the area

Acute pain in the scrotum or testicle is a surgical emergency. If you experience acute pain in the scrotum or testicle, seek immediate medical attention.

Special considerations

A lump on the testicle is often the first sign of testicular cancer. Therefore, if you find a lump, see a doctor immediately. Keep in mind that some cases of testicular cancer do not show symptoms until they reach an advanced stage.

Johns Hopkins patient information

Last revised: December 4, 2012
by Harutyun Medina, M.D.

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All ArmMed Media material is provided for information only and is neither advice nor a substitute for proper medical care. Consult a qualified healthcare professional who understands your particular history for individual concerns.