How many guys actually know anything about testicle health? For instance, did you know that testicular cancer is the most common cancer in men who are between 15 and 35 years of age? Or that most testicular cancer cases get diagnosed in men between the ages of 20 and 35?
The Canadian Cancer Society recommends that by the time guys are 15, they should be well acquainted with their testicles. However, men of any age can get testicular cancer. So check every month no matter what your age is.
The good news is it’s usually treatable if caught early. That’s why regular testicular self-exams are so important. Since most testicular cancer growths are painless, self-exams are critical to catching potential problems early on.
Before you examine them, get to know your testicles
The first thing you need to do, even before you do a self-exam, is to understand your testicles and what normal is for you. One size fits all does not apply to testicles, which can range from grape-sized to small egg-sized, and one is usually slightly larger than the other.
At the back of each testicle is a coiled tube called the epididymis, which stores sperm. Getting acquainted with your testicles is critical because you’ll be able to tell more easily if there is a change or abnormality when doing your self-exam.
How to check yourself for testicular cancer
Step 1: Timing is Everything
If you’ve just taken a plunge into a cold lake, it’s not the ideal time to do a testicular exam. Instead, try after or during a warm shower when your scrotum is relaxed.
Step 2: Check Them Out
Stand in front of a mirror and check for swelling on the scrotal skin. Feel the testicles and check for lumps, swelling, shrinking, and other signs of a problem.
Roll each testicle gently between your thumb and index/middle fingers from top to bottom, feeling for unusual lumps or texture. It’s not going to feel completely smooth, so don’t panic. But if you feel a pea-sized lump, get it checked by a doctor.
What to do if you think something is wrong
Don’t panic. Often what you think might be testicular cancer could be something else. Again, testicular cancer is almost always treatable when caught early. In Canada, there is a 97% survival rate.
If you notice anything abnormal, don’t wait; act immediately. Undetected and untreated cancer cells can spread and cause further complications. A doctor will ask questions, perform a quick exam and likely send you to get an ultrasound or a blood test, or both.
How often should you check yourself?
Aim to do a self-examination once a month. Monthly is frequent enough to help you notice if something changes. Remember that finding something wrong sooner than later is crucial to a good health outcome.
Signs and symptoms of testicular cancer
One of the reasons a self-exam is so important is that often, without an exam, there are no noticeable signs that something is wrong.
Occasionally, signs and symptoms do present themselves, although these could also indicate a problem other than testicular cancer. If you experience any of these symptoms, see your doctor.
- A painless lump or swelling on either testicle.
- Pain or discomfort in a testicle or the scrotum, with or without swelling.
- Change in how a testicle feels or a feeling of heaviness in the scrotum.
- Dull ache in the lower abdomen or groin.
- Sudden buildup of fluid in the scrotum.
Testicular Cancer Risk Factors
There are a few known risk factors for testicular cancer, including
- Family history
- Undescended testicle as a child
- Personal history (if you’ve had cancer in one testicle, the other is at higher risk)
Testicular cancer can occur in men who have no risk factors. So it is recommended to self-examine monthly regardless of whether you have any of these factors.
For more information, visit the Canadian Cancer Society.
Are there any other things you’d like to know about testicular cancer? Ask in the comments below!