Testicular Exam: How To Perform A Self-Exam Of The Testicles

Diagram showing a self testicular exam

BruceBlaus, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

What Is A Testicular Exam?

A testicular exam is a manual procedure used to inspect the testicles for abnormalities. You can perform the exam yourself by observing the appearance of the testicles and using your fingers to feel them within the scrotum. A testicular self-exam is usually done while standing in front a mirror.

Self-examination of the testicles can help you gain a better understanding of their condition and allows you to detect any subtle changes in them. Regular self-exams are a good way to warn you about any potential problems with your testicles.

A change in the appearance of your testicles may be indicative of a more serious condition such as cancer or infection. You should schedule a visit with your doctor if you notice any lumps or other abnormalities while performing a testicular self-exam.

Is It Necessary For Men To Perform Testicular Self-Exams?

Doctors and medical associations have differing opinions when it comes to testicular self-exams, and it is not clear who would most benefit from doing them on a regular basis. Although testicular self exams are frequently cited as method for detecting testicular cancer early on, they have not been shown to decrease the chance of dying as a result of the disease.

However, testicular cancer is generally not a common form of cancer. Additionally, testicular cancer is highly treatable at all stages of diagnoses. Therefore, detecting it early doesn’t necessarily improve the chances for recovery.

Talk to your doctor if you have concerns about the risk for testicular cancer. He or she can help you determine if regular testicular self-exams are the best option for you.

How To Perform A Testicular Self-Exam

Before Examining

Although there’s no special preparation required before performing a testicular exam, it is often helpful to take a warm shower or bath beforehand. The heat from the water helps to relax the scrotum, which makes performing the exam much easier.

You will also want to stand undressed in front of a mirror while doing the exam.

Steps For Testicular Self-Exam

  • Visually check for any swelling. Do this while holding your penis out of the way and inspect the shape of the skin around the scrotum.
  • Examine both testicles one at a time. Start by holding one testicle with both hands, placing your index and middle fingers underneath and your thumbs on the top. Then roll the testicle gently between your fingers and thumbs. Repeat the process for the other testicle.
  • Feel for any lumps in the scrotum. These could be hard lumps or bumps that are smooth and rounded.
  • Try to detect any changes in the shape, size, or feel of each testicle. You might notice that one testicle is different in size or shape from the other, which is fine. However, any differences in size and shape should not change over time.
  • You will also likely detect a soft, ropy cord, which is called the epididymis. It is a normal part the scrotum that runs upward from the top of the back side of each testicle.
  • Additionally, you may observe that one testicle hangs lower than the other. This is completely normal.

While performing the self-exam of your testicles you may notice things that are out of the ordinary, but aren’t typical symptoms of cancer. This could include bumps on the scrotum caused by by ingrown hairs, a rash, or other skin conditions.

Conclusion

Although the benefits of performing a self testicular exam are unclear, there is certainly no harm in doing so. If you do discover a lump or any other abnormality during your self-exam, make an appointment to visit your doctor.

Your doctor may perform a testicular exam, and may have testing done to determine the cause. Depending on the circumstances these tests might include blood testing, a testicular ultrasound or a biopsy (removal of a tiny piece of testicle for analysis).

Keep in mind that testicular cancer is not the cause of most changes that occur in the testicles. Changes in your testicles can result from a from a variety of other conditions, including cysts, infections, injuries, and hydroceles (fluid forming around the testicles).

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