Testicular/Genital Self-Exam

Testicular Self-Exam is used by males to check for abnormalities in the testicles that may be a result of testicular cancer.

WHAT IS TESTICULAR SELF-EXAM (TSE)?
TSE is a process a male uses to detect changes that may indicate testicular cancer.

WHY DO TESTICULAR SELF-EXAM?
Testicular cancer is the most common form of cancer among men between the ages of 20 and 35, and in rare cases can even happen to teenagers. As with other cancers, early detection is very important because if it is caught before it has spread to other parts of the body, there is more than a 90% chance of survival. There are conditions other than cancer that may cause changes in the testicles.

WHO SHOULD DO TSE?
Testicular self-exams should begin at age 15 and continue until age 40. It’s recommended that a male examine his testicles monthly in order to detect any abnormalities. The best time for TSE is after a warm bath or shower, which relaxes the skin of the scrotum (the sac that holds the testicles) and makes the testicles easier to examine.

HOW SHOULD TESTICLES NORMALLY LOOK AND FEEL?
In order to notice the changes that could indicate cancer, a male must be familiar with the usual size, shape, and consistency of his testicles. They should be smooth, egg shaped, and firm. It is normal for one testicle be larger than the other. There is also a tube-like structure (the epididymis) on the top and back of each testicle. The epididymis stores and transports sperm cells. A male should also note the color of his scrotum.

HOW IS TSE DONE?
The scrotum should be checked for changes in color or appearance, like reddening or darkening. Then each testicle should be examined by placing the index and middle fingers under the testicle and the thumbs on top. Gently roll the testicle between the thumbs and fingers, feeling for any changes, such as lumps, swelling, painful spots or a change in firmness of the testicle.

WHAT IF I FIND SOMETHING ABNORMAL?
The first sign of testicular cancer is usually a hard, painless lump about the size of a pea. If a male finds a lump, or notices any other changes (enlargement of a testicle, a feeling of heaviness in the scrotum, a dull ache in the lower abdomen or groin, a sudden collection of fluid in the scrotum, or pain), he should contact his health care provider right away. Remember that testicular cancer is highly curable, especially when treated promptly, so the sooner he gets to a health care provider, the better.

WHAT IS GENITAL SELF-EXAM?
In addition to examining his testicles, a male should regularly examine his entire genital area, looking for changes that may indicate the presence of a sexually transmitted infection or other unusual condition. Probably it will be most convenient to perform genital self-exam at the same time as TSE.

HOW DO I DO A GENITAL SELF-EXAM?
In addition to the steps taken for TSE, a man should examine his entire genital area, looking for lumps, sores, ulcers, or changes in color. These changes could occur on the scrotum, on the penis, or in the area surrounding the genitals (the pubic hair area and upper thighs). He should also be alert to the presence of any discharge from the urethra (the tube that carries urine and semen out of the penis). A man should look on the under side as well as the top of the penis. If he is uncircumcised, a man should gently pull back the foreskin to look for any changes there, as well.

WHAT IF I FIND SOMETHING ABNORMAL?
Sometimes people are embarrassed to go to a health care provider about a problem with their reproductive organs. Often they hope that their symptom will just go away on its own, without any medical intervention. This is typically not the case, and a health care provider should examine any abnormality as soon as possible. In many cases, the symptom is the result of an infection or condition that can be treated and cured with medication. In some cases, the symptom is the result of an infection that can’t be cured, but it’s just as important to get medical attention to learn about how to manage the infection and stay healthy in the future.