Testicular self-examination

It is easier to treat testicular cancer when it is diagnosed early. So from puberty onward, it’s important that men check their testicles once a month. When you check them regularly, you’ll soon get to know what feels normal for you. A normal testicle should feel smooth and firm, but not hard.

The best time to check your testicles is during, or right after, a warm bath or shower, when the scrotal skin is relaxed. Hold your scrotum in the palm of your hand, and use your fingers and thumb to examine each testicle.

Feel for lumps or swellings, anything unusual, or differences between your testicles. It’s normal for the testicles to be slightly different in size and for one to hang lower than the other.

The epididymis (tube that carries sperm) lies at the top of the back part of each testicle. It feels like a soft, coiled tube. It’s common to get harmless cysts or benign lumps in the epididymis.

Lumps or swellings can be caused by other conditions, and most lumps aren’t cancer. But it’s very important that you have anything unusual checked by your doctor as soon as possible.

Doctors are used to dealing with problems like this. If you feel embarrassed about seeing your GP, you can go to your local sexual health clinic. You can find your nearest clinic on the NHS Choices website or you can look in the health section of your local phone book.

Remember that testicular cancer is nearly always curable, particularly when it’s found and treated early.

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Back to Understanding testicular cancer

About testicular cancer

Testicular cancer is more common in young to middle-aged men. There are two main types of testicular cancer – seminoma and non-seminoma.

The testicles

The testicles produce sperm and the hormone testosterone. You need testosterone for your sex drive and to get an erection.

What is cancer?

Cancer is a disease of our cells. Sometimes cells go wrong and become abnormal. They keep dividing to make more abnormal cells which form a lump or tumour.

The lymphatic system

The lymphatic system includes lymph nodes (glands). Sometimes cancer cells can spread to lymph nodes near to the cancer.