How to check your testicles

As young boys, we were often warned of the mythical dangers of genital exploration. There’s the ever-popular “you’ll go blind” scare tactic or the infamous “hairy palms” defense.

But as we grew older, we began to realize that genital examination is not only natural, but it might even save our lives.

Checking your balls -- or as it’s medically known, testicular self-examination -- is a useful technique for catching testicular cancer. If detected early, testicular cancer is almost 100% curable. In fact, very few cancers can be so successfully treated, which is why AM has decided to give you a step-by-step guide on how to inspect your little guys for lumps.

Dr. Dawn Harper Dr Harper demonstrates the technique you can use to self-examine your balls, and as its best carried out in the shower, its a great excuse for taking a bit longer in the morning. 

Dr. Christian Jessen shows a group of firefighters how to check for testicular cancer.

The members of the group UK’s Wolverhamton Wolverines,  an Aussie Rules football club, strip down to demonstrate the proper technique while raising awareness for the Balls to Cancer charity. 

Without further ado, here's what you need to do to check your balls.

Start checking early

This may come as somewhat of a surprise, but testicular cancer is the most common cancer in men between the ages of 15 and 34 (other age groups are still susceptible).

While testicular cancer is rare and only accounts for about 1% of all male cancers, it’s still important to understand that this really isn’t your grandfather’s disease we’re talking about. Generally speaking, this is a young man’s disease.

With that said, if you’re 15 years or older, it’s time you start checking your balls.

Check frequently

There really is no golden rule as to how often you should check your balls for testicular lumps. But realistically, once a month should do. Doing so will make you familiar with the shape, size and feel of your testicles so that you can more easily detect any changes.

Prepare your balls for inspection

The best time to check your balls is during or after a warm shower or bath. The warm water allows the scrotum to relax and the testicles to drop down for easy inspection.

Get to know your manhood

How To Check Your Balls 2 - Credit: Jane Withirs
Check out our helpful diagram so that you know what  you’re looking at. Remember that one testicle (usually the right one) is slightly larger than the other, while the left one may hang a little bit lower. This is completely normal.

Examine one testicle at a time

Using both hands, gently roll each testicle (with slight pressure) between your fingers. To do this, place your thumbs over the top of your testicle, then, with the index and middle fingers of each hand behind the testicle, roll the testicle between your fingers (be sure to check our handy diagram).

Know what your balls feel like

Your testicles should feel firm and smooth, about the consistency of a hard-boiled egg except without the egg sHow To Check Your Balls 3 - Credit: Jane Withirshell.

Know what's normal

You may feel the epididymis (the sperm-carrying tube), which is a soft, rope-like tube located at the top of the back of each testicle. This is a normal lump.

Know what's abnormal

When examining each testicle, feel for any firm masses, lumps or nodules along the front or sides. Lumps may be as small as a piece of rice or a pea and they are often painless.

See a doctor

If you notice any swelling, lumps or changes in the size or color of a testicle, or if you have any pain or achy areas in your groin, you should schedule an appointment with a doctor (preferably a urologist) right away.

It's not always cancerous

If you do notice something abnormal, don’t get overly anxious; there are many other causes of abnormal lumps that are much less serious than cancer. But that tidbit of info shouldn’t stop you from seeking help. Infections, for example, will still require prompt treatment.

Other signs and symptoms

  • Aside from testicular lumps, there are other signs and symptoms of testicular cancer that you should be aware of:
  • An enlargement or significant shrinking of a testicle
  • A feeling of heaviness in the scrotum
  • A dull ache in the lower abdomen or in the groin
  • A sudden collection of fluid in the scrotum
  • Pain or discomfort in a testicle or in the scrotum
  • Enlargement or tenderness of the breasts

When in doubt, get it checked out

Let’s face it, human beings have a tendency to overreact when it comes to their health and chances are, you’re not a doctor. If you do notice something abnormal, don’t hesitate to have it checked out. Checking your balls regularly will hopefully make you better at distinguishing a real lump from your normal anatomy. But when in doubt, get it checked out. The worst that will come of a check-up is a little embarrassment, but that sure as heck beats cancer.


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