How to do a testicle self-exam: find out everything you need to know about this simple method and how to do it step by step at home. Also discover why it is so useful and what it is for.
The testicles are the male gonads, standing out precisely for being the male reproductive organs. They are very important in sexual development, acting as co-producers in the formation of sperm and also in the sex hormones themselves, especially testosterone, which is the hormone in charge of regulating sexual development in men, sexual function and the level of desire.
Where do we find them? Inside the scrotum. They basically consist of a pair of balls with dimensions of around 5 centimeters long and 3 centimeters wide. Although both tend to have a similar size and appearance, the truth is that it is totally normal for one testicle to hang a little more than the other (usually the left testicle).
They become one of the most delicate areas of a man’s body, being tremendously sensitive to touch and pressure. For this reason, on some occasions it is common to feel testicular pain, which arises especially when an injury or a testicular blow occurs.
But it can also appear for other causes: due to infection or inflammation of the spermatic ducts (epididymitis), the infection or inflammation of the testicles itself (orchids), the presence of cysts in the epididymis (spermatocyte) or even the existence of kidney stones.
What is testicular self-exam? What does it consist of?
Testicular self-exam is a simple and easy method that allows you to feel and touch the testicles, making it a useful option for examining the testicles and making sure there are no unusual lumps or bumps.
We must bear in mind that the testicles contain blood vessels and different structures that can make testicular self-examination a little more complicated. However, if at first a lump is noticed or changes have occurred in the testicle, it is very important – and advisable – to go to the urologist for a more specialized assessment.
For this reason, many specialists advise performing a testicular self-examination every month, which will allow the man to become familiar with the normal shape, size and texture of his testicles, and will thus provide the possibility of discovering the presence of something different or abnormal in the future, if appear.
This self-examination is even more important in those men who suffer from cryptorchidism, have a family history of testicular cancer, or have previously had a testicular tumor.
Testicular cancer is a rare type of cancer in adolescents, although in general terms it becomes the most common in men between 15 and 35 years of age. However, despite this, it continues to be a type of cancer with a fairly low incidence, compared to other types of cancers.
How to do a testicular self-exam:
Doing a testicular self-exam is very easy. It is best to do the self-exam when you are taking a hot bath or shower (or a few minutes later), since at these temperatures the scrotum will be more relaxed, and therefore will allow an easier exam to be carried out
Then follow these steps:
- Examine one testicle first: Feel the testicle gently, rotating it between the fingers of both hands while applying light pressure. Now place your thumbs on top of the testicle, with the middle finger and index finger of each hand, and then carefully roll it between the fingers.
- The epididymis: it is normal that you feel a kind of soft cord that if you press it a little it tends to hurt. It is located on the posterior superior border of each testicle, and is the tube that carries sperm.
- Palpate carefully: it is important that when you palpate each testicle you do so carefully, trying to detect the presence of possible lumps or lumps on the sides or in the front of the testicles. Sometimes it is normal to feel a small lump like a grain of rice (a benign lump called a granuloma).
What to do if I notice something strange in the testicle?
If you notice any type of lump, swelling or any change in the size or color of the testicle, it is very important to see your doctor immediately, who will make a more specialized and specific assessment.
But do not be alarmed: lumps or swelling do not necessarily imply the presence of cancer, as we indicated a few lines ago in the presence of a granuloma. However, it is very important to receive the assessment of the specialist.
Main risk factors for testicular cancer
Considering that most doctors advise regular testicular self-examination when there are any risk factors or symptoms, it is especially useful to know what those risk factors are:
- Cryptorchidism: In some cases, the descent of the testes into the scrotum does not occur during embryonic development, or occurs after birth. These boys are at higher risk of developing testicular cancer.
- Environmental factors: Continuous and prolonged exposure to extreme temperatures of cold or heat, or to chemical products for work reasons, can influence. However, this association is not entirely clear.
- Genetic factors: Heredity seems to greatly influence this type of cancer. It is estimated that about 3% of men with germ cell tumors have a family history of this cancer.
What do doctors say about testicular self-exam?
As pointed out by the American Cancer Society, “the monthly self-exam of the testicles is a personal decision of each man,” so that if the man has a series of risk factors that increase the chances that he may suffer from testicular cancer, it is advisable to “seriously consider doing the monthly self-exam.”
In this case, the opinion of many doctors is mixed. And it is that while some doctors advise that all men examine their testicles monthly after puberty, others do not recommend it because it would increase stress and anxiety, especially because they would not have been studied sufficiently if this type of self-examination reduced the rate mortality from this cancer.
That is, if a man does not have any risk factors or symptoms, many experts do not know whether performing this self-examination regularly would reduce the chances of dying from this cancer, according to the US National Library of Medicine.
In any case, as we mentioned, whether or not to perform a regular testicular self-exam is a personal and individual decision, which can be useful in many cases.
Information about testicular cancer
Testicular cancer is a type of cancer that usually begins in the testicle. According to the Spanish Society of Medical Oncology (SEOM), in most men -9 out of 10- this tumor is generated from germ cells, which are cells that after adolescence mature to produce sperm.
It is a more common type of cancer in men between 15 and 35 years old, while, after that age, it is actually rare for it to appear.
There are a series of symptoms that usually arise in the presence of testicular cancer. The main ones are the following:
- Lump: The appearance of a lump in the testicle is detected, which usually does not hurt or bother, and if it hurts, it usually appears rather progressively.
- Increase in size and weight: An increase in the normal size of the testicle is also observed, as well as having the sensation that the affected testicle weighs more.
- Back pain or pain in the abdomen.
Since it is a cancer that can be easily diagnosed, it is rare and in most cases it tends to have a good prognosis (especially since it tends to be diagnosed in the initial stages in many cases), routine tests or scans that provide the possibility of detecting it early. Of course, it is advised that men between 15 to 35 years know their most common symptoms.