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Testicular cancer: How to do a self-exam

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April 28, 2021—Testicular cancer is a young man's disease. The average age at diagnosis is 33. Often, though, it's possible to find it at an early stage, when it's easier to treat.

Your doctor might find signs of testicular cancer during a routine checkup. But another way to find it is through self-exams.

Should you check yourself?

Some experts recommend that men perform a monthly testicular self-exam. To be clear, self-exams haven't been studied enough to know if they actually help prevent testicular cancer deaths, the American Cancer Society (ACS) reports. That's why groups like ACS don't weigh in for or against them.

But self-exams are one way to get to know what's normal for your body. That can make it easier to notice any changes you'd want to ask your doctor about.

Regular self-exams may be especially important to consider if you are at increased risk for testicular cancer. This includes people who were born with an undescended testicle and people with a personal or family history of testicular cancer.

If you have questions, ask your doctor about your testicular cancer risk.

3 easy steps

If you choose to do a testicular self-exam, follow these steps from ACS:

1. Do it during or after a warm bath or shower. The skin will be relaxed, and it will be easier to feel any changes.

2. Check each testicle one at a time. Hold the testicle between your thumbs and forefingers with both hands, and roll it gently between your fingers.

3. Look and feel for changes. Any of the following may be unusual:

  • Hard lumps.
  • Smooth, round masses.
  • A change in the size, shape or consistency of your testicles.

What if you find something?

First, don't jump to conclusions. The testicles contain blood vessels and tissues that are easy to mistake for abnormal growths, ACS notes. One example is the epididymis, a coiled tube on each testicle. This can feel like a small bump on the upper or middle outer side of the testicle.

It's also normal for one testicle to be slightly larger than the other. Or sometimes a testicle can be enlarged due to noncancerous conditions, such as a hydrocele (a buildup of fluid around the testicle).

To find out what's going on, it's best to tell your doctor about anything unusual you find.

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