Why testicular self-exam?
Testicular self-examination (TSE) is performed to detect testicular cancer. Testicular cancer in most cases has a good cure rate. Hence, early detection can help in curing the condition completely.
A lump on the testicle can be the first symptom of testicular cancer. Sometimes, the whole testicle can be swollen. Until a tumour has grown bigger and/or spread, it may not be detected by some men. On many occasions, the testicular cancer is first found by the men themselves or their partners than during medical examination.
The rationale for testicular self-examination is that men need to be familiar with the normal contours of their testicles and if any abnormality develops, report it to the doctor immediately.
Who should do testicular self-examination?
A testicular examination can be done by a doctor as part of cancer screening. There is no recommendation by any health association that all men after puberty should perform a regular testicular self-examination. There have been no studies that have examined if such an approach would decrease the mortality and morbidity of testicular cancer.
You may be asked to perform testicular self-exam every month if you have certain risk factors for testicular cancer such as:
• History of testicular cancer in the family
• Previous history of a testicular tumour
• Undescended testicle
It is an individual decision to perform a monthly testicular self-examination. It is a simple process and hardly takes a couple of minutes to perform.
How to perform testicular self-examination?
The best time to do a testicular self-exam is after a bath in warm water. The scrotum (skin that covers the testicles) is relaxed by the warmth making the testicle hang and easier to examine.
Examine one testicle at a time. If possible, stand in front of a mirror.
Start by examining the skin on the scrotum for any swelling.
Use both hands to examine each testicle. Place both the thumbs over the top of the testicle, with the index and middle fingers behind the testicle and roll the testicle between your fingers.
The testicle should be firm but not hard like a rock. There shouldn’t be any pain during this examination.
It is normal for one testicle to be slightly larger than the other and one of the testicles may hang lower than the other.
You may feel the epididymis (beginning portion of the sperm-carrying tube) as a soft, rope-like bump attached to the testicle at top of the back. You may also feel the sperm carrying tubes with surrounding blood vessels going up from the testicles.
You should look and feel for any hard swellings or smoothly rounded lumps, any change in size, shape or firmness of the testicles.
What if I find something abnormal during TSE?
If you find any swelling, lumps, change in size or hardness of testicles, consult your doctor right away.
Lumps or swellings in the testes may not always be due to cancer and may be caused by some other conditions such as hydrocele or varicocele. Your doctor will decide if there is anything abnormal and if you need any further tests. If anything abnormal is suspected, your doctor may perform an ultrasound test to look at the scrotum and testicles.
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- American Cancer Society. Learn About Cancer – Testicular Cancer. Testicular self-exam. Accessed at http://www.cancer.org/cancer/testicularcancer/moreinformation/doihavetesticularcancer/do-i-have-testicular-cancer-self-exam
- Andrology Australia. Keeping healthy – Testicular Self-examination. Accessed at https://www.andrologyaustralia.org/keeping-healthy/tse/
- US National Library of medicine. Medical Encyclopedia – Testicular self-exam. Accessed at https://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/003909.htm
- The testicular cancer resource center. How to Do a Testicular Self Examination. Accessed at http://tcrc.acor.org/tcexam.html