Risks of testicular cancer

All men should check their testicles regularly to become familiar with the usual feel of their testicles, so that they know when there is a change. Men who have a history of undescended testicles at birth, or men who are infertile, are at greater risk of testicular cancer. These men should be vigilant and regularly examine their testicles for unusual lumps or swellings. Checking your testicles using testicular self-examination TSE only takes a minute. You should aim to perform TSE about once every four weeks or so. Choose a day that’s easy to remember, like the first day of every calendar month.

If you have been treated for testicular cancer, you should still examine your remaining testicle because you have a one in 25 chance of developing cancer in this testicle also. See your doctor for further information or instruction on TSE, and for prompt diagnosis of any testicular lumps or swellings.

Testicle anatomy

The anatomy of the testicle includes:

• Testicle (or testis) – small, oval-shaped sex gland that produces sex hormones and sperm

• Epididymis – a series of small tubes attached to the back of the testicle that collect and store sperm. The epididymis connects to a larger tube called the vas deferens

• Scrotum – the skin sac that houses the testicles. Sperm production needs a temperature around 20C lower than the body, which is why the testicles are located outside the body in the scrotum.

What to expect when performing testicular self-examination

Become familiar with the look, feel and shape of your testicles; this will help you notice any abnormalities.

The characteristics of healthy testicles include:

• Each testicle feels like a smooth, firm egg.

• Adult testicles range in size from about 15 mL (similar to a bird egg) to 35 mL (similar to a small chicken egg).

• One testicle may be slightly larger than the other.

• Commonly, one testicle hangs lower than the other.

• There should be no pain or discomfort when the testicles and scrotum are handled gently.

How to perform testicular self-examination

Generally, the TSE procedure includes:

• Make sure your scrotum is warm and relaxed. You may like to perform TSE after showering or bathing.

• It may help to do TSE in front of the mirror, so you can see as well as feel what you’re doing.