Testicular Cancer Self-Exam

What Facts Should I Know about Testicular Self-Exam?

Anatomy of the Male Torso
A testicular self-examination (TSE) is useful in the detection of cancer of the testicles. If detected early and treated, testicular cancer is almost 100% curable.

How do you check for testicular cancer?

  • A testicular self-examination (TSE) is useful in the detection of cancer of the testicles.
  • Testicular cancer is the most common solid tumor found in males age 20-34 years.

Is there a cure for testicular cancer?

  • If detected early and treated, testicular cancer is almost 100% curable.

What happens if you leave testicular cancer untreated?

  • If untreated, it may spread to the lymph nodes and lungs, and become more dangerous.
  • Tumors usually are found on one side, but a small percentage are found in both testicles.

Testicular Cancer Risk Factors

The cause of testicular cancer is unknown, but there are several known risk factors:

  • Family history of testicular tumors
  • History of an undescended testicle or a late-descending testicle
  • History of mumps and later shrinking of the testicles
  • Injury to the scrotum
  • Ethnicity: More common in white than black men

Testicular Cancer Signs and Symptoms

  • Small, painless lump in a testicle
  • Feeling of heaviness in the testicle
  • Enlarging male breasts or breast tenderness
  • Enlargement of the testicle
  • A new collection of fluid or blood in the scrotum around the testicle
  • Pain in the testicle

How to Do a Testicular Self-Examination

The best time to examine testicles is during or after a shower or bath. The warm water allows the scrotum to relax and the testicles to drop down. The left testicle normally hangs a bit lower than the right. It is common for one testicle to be larger than the other one.

Young men should examine themselves once a month. More frequent exams actually may result in missing a slowly changing lump.

How to conduct a testicular self-exam

  • Support each testicle with one hand and examine it with the other.
  • Gently roll each testicle between the thumb and fingers. Testicles should feel firm and smooth, about the consistency of a hard-boiled egg without the shell.
  • The epididymis is a ropelike structure attached to the back of the testis. This structure is not an abnormal lump
  • Feel for firm masses, lumps, or nodules in the testicle. In cancer, these lumps are usually painless.
  • Become familiar with normal size, shape, and weight of each testicle and epididymis. This will help you recognize a change from one self-examination to the next, if a change should occur.

When to Call the Doctor as a Result of a Testicular Self Exam

If you find a lump, contact a doctor to set up an appointment for evaluation. In addition to cancer, there are other causes of abnormal lumps. The doctor should examine you to make the correct determination of the cause. The doctor can instruct you on the correct way to do a testicular self-examination.

Testicular Cancer Diagnosis

If a suspicious lump exists, the physician may order tests to assist in making the diagnosis.


  • Testicular ultrasound is an excellent way to evaluate lumps in the testicle. With ultrasound, the technician moves a wand over the area. Sound waves echo to form an image on a computer screen. This procedure is noninvasive and painless.
  • In addition, when a collection of fluid or blood exists around the testicle, it may be difficult to feel a mass or lump. Ultrasound can overcome this barrier and give an accurate image of the testicle.

Blood tests

  • Blood tests for serum markers are often elevated in testicular cancer.
  • These markers include alpha-feto-protein (AFP) and human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG).

Physician Treatment for Testicular Cancer

Treatment for testicular cancer involves the surgical removal of the testicle. Testicular cancer is readily curable with surgery and these additional modes of treatment. Depending on the type of cancer, additional treatment may include the following:

Pictures of Testicular Self-Exam

Testicular lump.
Testicular lump. Click to view larger image.

Technique for performing a testicular self-exam.
Technique for performing a testicular self-exam. Click to view larger image.

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Testicular Cancer Definition

Testicular cancer: Cancer of the male sex organ, the testicle, that normally produces the hormone testosterone. One of the most common cancers in young men. Most testicular cancers are found by men in themselves as a lump in the testicle.

The risk of cancer of the testicles is increased in males whose testicles did not move down normally into the scrotum (holding sac for the testicles) during development unless the problem is corrected in early childhood. This condition is referred to as undescended testicles.

After cancer in the testicle is detected, surgical removal of the affected testicle (orchiectomy) is done and the cancer is confirmed by examination of the tissue under a microscope.

Testicular cancer is almost always curable if it is found early.

MedTerms.com. Testicular Cancer.

Medically reviewed by Michael Wolff, MD; American Board of Urology


MedlinePlus.gov. Testicular self-examination.