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Testicular cancer awareness and self-examination

A smiling middle-aged male cyclist pausing for a break by the roadside.

There are around 2,400 new testicular cancer cases in the UK every year. That's more than six every day (Cancer Research UK). Thankfully, the survival rate for testicular cancer is above 95%. This is because more awareness has resulted in an increase in men checking their testicles for any changes.

Just as it’s recommended that women check their breasts on a monthly basis, men should also regularly check their testicles (balls). Checks can help you become familiar with your body and recognise changes sooner. If you’ve never ‘checked your chaps’, it’s not too late to start. Learn how to perform a five-minute testicular check:

Check your chaps in these three simple steps

To perform the exam, stand nude in front of a mirror after a warm bath or shower.

1. Check for swelling

Hold the penis out of the way and look at the skin of the scrotum. You may see bumps which seem unusual, but these are not necessarily a sign of cancer. Bumps can be caused by ingrown hairs, rashes or other skin-related problems

2. Roll each testicle

Using your thumb and forefingers, gently roll each testicle in turn, looking and feeling for any changes. These include lumps, bumps or changes in shape or size

3. Check again

Make sure you ‘check your chaps’ on a regular basis. Add a monthly reminder in your diary, phone or calendar to give you a nudge

At the back of your testicles you may also feel a softer, bumpier tissue which feels different to the testicle it’s attached to. These tubes are called the epididymis and are a normal part of the male reproductive system. They can easily be mistaken for an unusual mass if you’re unfamiliar with them.

What should my testicles feel and look like? 

Most men’s testicles are about the same size, though it's common for one to be a bit larger than the other, as well as one hanging lower than the other.

Your testicles should feel fairly smooth, without noticeable lumps or bumps. They should be relatively firm but not hard. Around the back of your testicles, you can feel the aforementioned epididymis.

The best place to notice any changes to your testicles is after a hot shower, as the heat causes the testicles to hang lower, making them easier to examine.

What causes swelling or lumps in the testicles?

There are a few different causes of testicular swelling or lumps;

  • Hydrocele – swelling caused by fluid
  • Epididymal cyst – lump(s) caused by a collection of fluid in the epididymis
  • Varicocele – enlarged veins in the testicles
  • Testicular torsion – a sudden and painful swelling that occurs when a testicle is twisted, requiring medical attention as soon as possible
  • Epididymitis – infection located in the epididymis which can cause inflammation. This often leads to swelling, tenderness and redness on the scrotum (ball sack)
  • Testicular cancer – an estimated 4 in 100 testicular lumps are cancer, so this is an uncommon cause of lumps. However, it is the most concerning and - should you identify a lump on your testicle - you should contact your GP

Types of testicular cancer

According to NHS UK (2021), the most common form of testicular cancer (95% of all cases) is germ cell testicular cancer. Germ cells are a type of cell that the body uses to create sperm. This form of testicular cancer has two ‘subtypes’ which both respond well to chemotherapy. They are:

  • Seminomas – 40 to 45% of all testicular cancers
  • Non-seminomas – 55 to 60% of all testicular cancers

Other, less common types of testicular cancer include Leydig cell tumours and Sertoli cell tumours. Although we can’t treat cancer at Benenden Hospital, we do offer fast access to private GP appointments, diagnostic services and a range of urology treatments in a discreet, safe environment.

What are the different signs of testicular cancer?

Testicular cancer is luckily easy to identify, and it’s important that you get checked out by a doctor if you notice any of these changes, so look out for one or more of the following signs:

  • Swelling or unusual increase in size, or a change in shape of a testicle
  • A hard lump on the front or side
  • An unusual and noticeable difference between one testicle and the other
  • Increased firmness of the testicle

Get yourself checked

Testicular cancer is far easier to treat in the early stages, so it’s essential to check yourself on a regular basis to ensure that no changes go unnoticed. These symptoms may relate to other conditions afflicting the male reproductive organs (penis, scrotum and prostate), for which we offer a range of urology treatments.

If you are experiencing prostate cancer symptoms or any unusual changes in the way your testicles look or feel, book a private GP appointment.

Get in touch by completing our online enquiry form or by contacting our Private Patient Team by phone on 01580 363 158 or via our Livechat.

Published on 29 August 2023