Throughout November, we encourage men to grow a moustache to support the ‘Movember’ campaign and raise awareness of men’s health issues including testicular cancer.
Testicular cancer is the most common cancer in young men. It can grow rapidly and spread quickly to other parts of the body such as your abdomen. Fortunately, it is highly curable when caught early. For that reason, men are encouraged to get to know and regularly check their testicles. Recognising what is normal for your testicles, means you can identify any changes and get them checked early.
What is a testicular self-exam?
Starting from puberty, males should conduct a regular testicular self-exam - monthly is good.
In a testicular exam, you check the look and feel of your testicles. During this self-examination, you get to know how your testicles feel. Having a normal benchmark, means you will know if there are any worrisome changes compared to the previous month’s check.
How to check your testicles
Checking your testicles is easy to do and should only take a few minutes.
1. Have a warm shower or bath - this relaxes and loosens your testicles so that they are ready to be checked.
2. Examine one testicle at a time - with your thumb and finger, roll one testicle with consistent gentle pressure. Check your spermatic cord and epididymis that connect on the back of each testicle. Familiarise yourself with what is normal for you. Most men have one testicle larger than the other. They may find one testicle hangs lower than the other. Both are usual and not a reason to worry.
3. Feel for any lumps, pain, or changes - if you notice a change in shape, size, or consistency, or feel a lump, try not to panic. Most lumps are not cancer. However, if you do notice anything unusual or concerning you should see your GP as soon as you can.
Symptoms of testicular cancer
Testicular cancer is usually only found in one testicle. The most common symptoms of testicular cancer are:
· a painless swelling or lump in one of your testicles – this can be the size of a pea or larger
· a bigger and/or firmer testicle than normal
· a heavy scrotum
· a dull ache or pain in your testicle or scrotum, which may come and go
· lower back pain that does not go away.
Cyst vs cancer
It can be worrying to find a lump in your scrotum. However, most of the scrotal lumps or swellings are not in the testicle and are not a sign of cancer. Lumps within your scrotum can have many different causes. Only a very small number of lumps or swellings in the scrotum are cancerous.
A lump in your testicle could be a testicular cyst, known as an epididymal cyst. This is a collection of fluid in the epididymis. These testicular fluid-filled sacs can cause symptoms similar to cancerous lumps such as pain, swelling, and discomfort in the testicles. However, testicular cysts are usually harmless and benign. They tend to be caused by a blockage in your epididymis, the tube that connects your testicle to the vas deferens.
A testicular lump could also be caused by a hydrocele. This is an accumulation of clear fluid around your testicle.
Your doctor will try to identify whether your lump is benign or cancerous. They may see if light passes through your scrotum. This is because light shows through a harmless, fluid-filled cyst. On the other hand, a cancerous testicular lump is usually solid and doesn’t allow light to pass through.
When to see a professional
You should see your GP or a healthcare professional as soon as possible if you notice a swelling, lump, or any other change in one of your testicles.
A GP will examine your testicles as well as find out about your symptoms and medical history. Write down anything you have noticed and you want to tell your GP about.
If your GP thinks a lump is in your testicle and that cancer may be a possible cause, you will be referred for further testing. These tests may include a scrotal ultrasound, blood tests or a biopsy, or to a specialist. The earlier testicular cancer is picked up, the higher the chance of successful treatment.
At Ramsay Health Care UK, we offer easy access without waiting to our team of experienced radiologists, pathologists, urologists, and oncologists. They offer professional advice and can rapidly diagnose and treat testicular cancer.
· Testicular cancer is most common in young men aged 15 and 49 years.
· It is highly curable if caught early.
· Men should check their testicles regularly so they know what’s normal and what’s not.
· The best method of checking your testicles is in the shower or bath and rolling one testicle at a time between your thumb and finger.
· It only takes a few minutes to perform a testicle self-exam.
· A lump or swelling in your testicle is a symptom of testicular cancer but it does not mean you have cancer.
· Most scrotal lumps and swellings are not cancerous.