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Testicular self-exam

Definition

Testicular self-exam is an examination of the testicles that you do on yourself.

Alternative Names

Screening - testicular cancer - self-exam; Testicular cancer - screening - self-exam

How the Test is Performed

The testicles (also called the testes) are the male reproductive organs that produce sperm and the hormone testosterone. They are located in the scrotum under the penis.

You can do this test during or after a shower. This way, the scrotal skin is warm and relaxed. It is best to do the test while standing.

  • Gently feel your scrotal sac to locate a testicle.
  • Use one hand to stabilize the testicle. Use your fingers and thumb of the other hand to firmly but gently feel the testicle. Feel the entire surface.
  • Check the other testicle in the same way.

Why the Test is Performed

A testicular self-exam is done to check for testicular cancer.

Testicles have blood vessels and other structures that can make the exam confusing. If you notice any lumps or changes in a testicle, contact your health care provider right away.

Your provider may recommend that you do a testicular self-exam every month if you have any of the following risk factors:

However, if a man has no risk factors or symptoms, experts do not know if doing testicular self-exam lowers the chance of dying from this cancer.

Normal Results

Each testicle should feel firm, but not rock hard. One testicle may be lower or slightly larger than the other.

Talk to your provider if you have questions.

What Abnormal Results Mean

If you find a small, hard lump (like a pea), have an enlarged testicle, or notice any other differences that do not seem normal, see your provider right away.

Call your provider if:

  • You cannot 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. This may be a collection of widened veins (varicocele).
  • You have pain or swelling in the scrotum. This may be an infection or a fluid-filled sac (hydrocele) causing a blockage of blood flow to the area.

Sudden, severe (acute) pain in the scrotum or testicle that lasts for more than a few minutes is an emergency. If you have this type of pain, seek medical attention right away.

A lump in the testicle is often the first sign of testicular cancer. If you find a lump, see a provider right away. Most testicular cancers are very treatable. Keep in mind that some cases of testicular cancer do not show symptoms until they reach an advanced stage.

Risks

There are no risks with this self-exam.

References

American Cancer Society. Testicular self-exam. Last revised January 20, 2015. Available at: www.cancer.org/cancer/testicularcancer/moreinformation/doihavetesticularcancer/do-i-have-testicular-cancer-self-exam. Accessed October 2, 2015.

Friedlander TW, Ryan CJ, Small EJ, Torti F. Testicular cancer. In: Niederhuber JE, Armitage JO, Doroshow JH, Kastan MB, Tepper JE, eds. Abeloff's Clinical Oncology. 5th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Churchill Livingstone; 2014:chap 86.

National Cancer Institute: Testicular Cancer Screening (PDQ). Bethesda, MD. Date last modified: July 19, 2012. Available at: www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq/screening/testicular/Patient/page3. Accessed October 2, 2015.

U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. Screening for testicular cancer. U.S. Preventive Services Task Force reaffirmation recommendation statement. Ann Intern Med. 2011;154:483-6. PMID: 21464350 www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21464350.


Review Date: 8/31/2015
Reviewed By: Jennifer Sobol, DO, Urologist with the Michigan Institute of Urology, West Bloomfield, MI. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
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