Regularly performing testicular self-examination (TSE) can help you become familiar with the normal texture of your testicles, enabling you to detect any changes that might occur. It is advisable for all men to conduct regular self-checks. Approximately 200 men from Victoria are diagnosed with testicular cancer annually, primarily occurring between the ages of 20 and 50. This relatively rare form of cancer boasts a high cure rate, especially when treated in its early stages. If you observe any alterations in your testicles, it’s crucial to promptly consult a physician. Even if you have previously had testicular cancer or are currently undergoing treatment, it is recommended to continue TSE, as cancer might develop in the remaining testicle.
Risk Factors for Testicular Cancer Men who were born with undescended testicles or who experience infertility are at a heightened risk of developing testicular cancer. If you belong to either of these groups, it is important to stay vigilant and perform regular self-examinations for any unusual lumps or swellings.
Conducting Testicular Self-Examination Performing testicular self-examination is quick, taking just about a minute. Strive to carry out TSE approximately every four weeks, selecting a specific day that is easy to remember, such as the first day of each calendar month. Even if you have previously been treated for testicular cancer, it is essential to examine the remaining testicle since there is a one in 25 chance of cancer developing in that testicle as well. Seek additional guidance or instructions on TSE from your doctor and promptly seek medical attention if you detect any testicular lumps or swellings.
Understanding Testicle Anatomy The anatomy of the testicle encompasses:
- Testicle (or testis): A small, oval-shaped reproductive gland responsible for producing sex hormones and sperm.
- Epididymis: A series of small tubes connected to the rear of the testicle that collect and store sperm. The epididymis connects to a larger tube called the vas deferens.
- Scrotum: The skin pouch containing the testicles. Sperm production requires a temperature about 2°C lower than the body’s temperature, which is why the testicles are situated outside the body within the scrotum.
What to Anticipate During Testicular Self-Examination Familiarize yourself with the appearance, feel, and shape of your testicles, as this will aid in detecting any irregularities.
Healthy testicles exhibit the following characteristics:
- Each testicle should feel smooth and firm, akin to a small egg.
- Adult testicles vary in size, ranging from approximately 15 mL (similar to a bird egg) to 35 mL (resembling a small chicken egg).
- Slight asymmetry in size between the two testicles is normal.
- It is common for one testicle to hang lower than the other.
- There should be no discomfort or pain when gently handling the testicles and scrotum.
Conducting Testicular Self-Examination In general, the process of TSE involves the following steps:
- Ensure that your scrotum is warm and relaxed, ideally performing TSE after a shower or bath.
- You may find it beneficial to conduct TSE in front of a mirror to aid in both visualization and touch.
- Examine one testicle first, followed by the other.
- Gently roll each testicle between your fingers and thumbs.
- Explore the underside of the scrotum to locate the epididymis positioned at the back of the testicle, which should feel like a cluster of tightly curled tubes.
- Repeat the TSE process for the other testicle.
TSE should not be uncomfortable or painful. If you experience tenderness or pain in one or both testicles, seek medical attention from your doctor.
Symptoms of Testicular Cancer and Testicular Self-Examination Indications of testicular cancer encompass the presence of a painless lump on the testicle (although roughly one in 10 cases involve pain), a sensation of heaviness in the scrotum, and persistent discomfort in the affected testicle.
Pay attention to any unusual changes, such as:
- A lump or swelling within or on the testicle itself.
- Alteration in testicular size.
- Changes in testicular shape.
- Variations in the texture or feel of the testicle.
Testicular Conditions Beyond Cancer It is essential to recognize that testicular cancer is relatively infrequent. Thus, if you detect a lump or any other unusual feature, panic is unnecessary. Promptly consult your doctor for an accurate diagnosis.
Certain non-cancerous conditions that can affect the testicles include:
- Cyst: An atypical yet harmless accumulation of fluid.
- Varicocele: Enlarged veins, akin to varicose veins, within the scrotum. Roughly 10 to 15 per cent of men experience varicose veins in this area.
- Haematocele: A blood clot resulting from trauma or injury to the testicles or scrotum.
- Epididymo-orchitis: An infection impacting the epididymis, testicle, or both, leading to inflammation and discomfort. Typically treated with antibiotics.
- Testicular torsion: A painful condition wherein the cord attaching the testicle to the body becomes twisted, cutting off the blood supply. Immediate medical attention is essential.
- Undescended testicles: When one or both testicles fail to descend into the scrotum, instead remaining within the lower abdomen. Premature and low-weight newborn boys are more prone to this condition, which increases the risk of testicular cancer later in life and is also linked to infertility.