Testicular Self Exam (TSE)

There have been many dramatic improvements in the treatment of testicular tumors in the past several years. While testicular cancer is relatively rare, it is still the most common form of cancer among males in the 15-30 age group. Of course, the best cure rate is noted when the tumor is found at a very early stage. This is why it is important for all men to examine their testicles once a month. Most lumps are found by men themselves, or their sexual partners, rather than by physicians.

Each testicle is located within its own compartment in the scrotum. To a certain extent it is mobile. Behind the testicle is a firmer structure called the epididymis, which can be felt quite distinctly, from the testicle. Usually it will drape over the top of the testicle and continue along the length of the testicle toward the lower pole. The firm structure which courses upward from the lower part of the epididymis is the vas deferens which carries the sperm produced in the testicle. The testicle itself has the consistency of a ripe plum with a very smooth surface and will be tender if squeezed.

The best time to examine the testicle is after a warm shower or bath. At this time the cremaster muscle, which helps control the temperature of the testicle by regulating the distance from the body, will be relaxed. Two hands should be used and the testes should be examined between the thumb and index fingers moving the testicle gently between the fingers so the entire surface and epididymis can be felt. Any irregular feeling or lump on the usually smooth surface, or a feeling of heaviness in the testicle, may be abnormal.

A smaller number of tumors occur as a reddened tender swelling of the testicle. Another sign that may be of concern is a rapid change in size or development of a "hydrocele." This is a fluid-filled sac that would surround the testicle and makes examination of the testicle very difficult or impossible. Enlarged or tender breasts may also be a signal of an abnormality.

If you find any hard lumps or nodules, you should see your doctor promptly. They may not be malignant, but only your doctor can make the diagnosis. To make an appointment at the Health and Wellness Center, call 814-898-6217 or schedule an appointment online.

A urologist may recommend further exploration to examine the testicle under direct vision and possibly a biopsy of any suspicious areas. Testicular self-examination should be performed monthly to ensure your peace of mind and good health.

For a Patient Guide with drawings of how to perform a self-exam, see The Testicular Self-exam - 30 Seconds That Can Save Your Life. (This publication is available in alternative media on request.)

This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. This information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.