30 Days to a Better Man Day 11: Give Yourself a Testicular Exam

by Brett on June 10, 2009 · 20 comments

in 30 Days to a Better Man

Today we’re going to examine ourselves. And by ourselves, I mean our balls. Why, you may be asking, are we examining our bits and pieces today? Well, testicular cancer is the most common malignancy in young men between the ages of 20 and 34. It’s also is the number one cancer killer among men in this same age group. Who knew that the one thing two things that makes a man a man, can also be the very things that kill you?

The good news is that if detected early, testicular cancer is almost always curable. But in order to detect cancer, you need to know what to look for and also how to look for it.

Do I Need Regular Testicular Self-Exams?

Most health professionals recommend all men between the ages of 15 and 40 have regular testicular exams performed by a doctor. This is usually done once a year at your yearly physical.

If you have a history of testicular cancer in your family or if you had undescended testicles as a baby, it’s recommended that you perform monthly self-exams. Studies have shown that male children with a history of undescended testicles have about 10-40 times higher risk of developing testicular cancer. And here’s the kicker: both testes are at higher risk, not just the undescended one. If you don’t know if you had an undescended testicle, ask your parents.

The American Cancer Society doesn’t recommend that men who have no risk of testicular cancer perform regular monthly self-exams. But even if you aren’t at a high risk for testicular cancer, it doesn’t hurt to examine yourself every now and then. It’s fast, painless, and will give you peace of mind to know that everything is fine under the hood.

Today’s Task: Give Yourself a Testicular Exam

I’m sure that many of you are still trying to complete yesterdays task and are hard at work memorizing If. So today’s task is simple, straightforward, and quick. You’re going to give yourself a testicular exam. Here’s how to do it:

It’s best to perform the exam right after a hot shower when the scrotal muscles are warm and relaxed. You know… when your balls are saggy.

1. Stand in front of a mirror and check for any swelling on the scrotum’s skin.

2. Exam each testicle with both hands by rolling the testicle gently but firmly between your thumb and fingers. Don’t worry if one testicle feels larger than the other. That’s completely normal. Fast fact: A man’s left testicle is usually larger than the right one. While you’re rolling each testicle in your hands, look for hard lumps on the surface of it.

3. Don’t confuse the epididymis for a lump. The epididymis is the spongy, tube-like structure that collects and carries your sperm to the prostate. You can feel the epididymis on the top and down the back side of each testicle. This isn’t the sort of lump you’re looking for.

4. If you notice any sort of hard lump on your testicle, don’t freak out yet. Just contact your doctor immediately. Complete and accurate diagnosis can only be performed by a trained medical physician.

Other things to look for

In addition to lumps on the surface of your testes, be on the look out for these signs of other problems:

  • Sudden acute pain during the self-examination could mean you have an infection in the epididymis or it could mean the spermatic chord is twisted up and blocking blood flow to your testicles. If you feel pain during the exam, go see the doctor.
  • You feel a soft collection of thin tubes above or behind your testicles. It’s often described as feeling like a “bag of worms.” This may indicate a varicocele.

So, unlike the other tasks in the 30 Days project, reporting to the Community about this one is not mandatory. But if you’d like to tell everyone how your nuts checked out, please feel free.

{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Glenn June 10, 2009 at 6:40 pm

Thanks for posting this. It is important for men to get over the whole idea that taking care of their health is somehow unmanly.

One thing I hope gets some exposure here is about prostate cancer and the need for regular exams. It was my understanding that prostate cancer, not testicular cancer, is the #1 cancer in men.

2 MassiveGrowth June 10, 2009 at 11:30 pm

The threat of testicular cancer is pretty nuts… but be careful where you do your self-exam. My boss caught me doing it at my desk and he gave me the sack.

3 Bob Iger June 11, 2009 at 12:55 am

It’s good that AoM puts the spotlight on this problem. However, I think that to be sure you should have a regular check-up by your physician. Yes, it will not be the nicest feeling in the world to have your doctor examine your testes but if it can save your life, why not?

4 Robert Frome June 11, 2009 at 5:43 am

You should have tied this task in with Day 9, that way you could have had some assistance with the project

5 Justin June 11, 2009 at 5:45 am

Thank you for bring this issue to attention. I found my first cyst in my testicles during my freshman year of high-school while examining myself in a less than scientific fashion. I FREAKED out. Since then I’ve been doing monthly self exams and have found a couple of other cysts but all have harmless. And yes… make sure that if you find ANYTHING unusual or anything that makes you nervous go to your doctor – better safe than nutless or dead.

6 Jonathan Thomas June 11, 2009 at 6:42 am

Make it a little more fun and have your wife help out with the exam as well.

7 Liz Remus June 11, 2009 at 6:49 am

Hey, I know I am a girl but I’d like to share this series with some guy friends of mine. Do you have a link to the 30 Days to be a Better Man series so I can easily link it to friends of mine?

I think this site is amazing and offers sound advice! Thanks so much!

8 Jack June 11, 2009 at 7:46 am

Quite possibly the funnest challenge next to the date!

I may examine myself twice just in case….


9 Ken June 11, 2009 at 8:14 am

“3. Don’t confuse the epididymis for a lump. The epididymis is the spongy, tube-like structure that collects and carries your sperm to the prostate. You can feel the epididymis on the top and down the back side of each testicle. This isn’t the sort of lump you’re looking for.”

This is good advice. I recently thought I had testicular cancer, I even went to a radiologist to make sure. But as it turned out it was nothing but the epididymis. But seeing how I was professionally screened for testicular mass and had none found, I consider this task completed

10 Dave June 11, 2009 at 9:08 am

great and very important article. i actualy preformed an exam on myself yesterday, everything appears to be OK.

on a side note.
The strike through text fad needs to stop. I really thought AoM was above childish/obnoxious behavior such as that.

11 Josh June 11, 2009 at 9:34 am

I’m rather glad this was posted. I’ve always wondered what I am supposed to be looking for when giving myself an exam. Now I’m not just playing with myself.

12 Tom June 11, 2009 at 4:12 pm

Be a squirrel and keep an eye on your nuts! 6 weeks ago while having a bath a noticed my left teste was enlarged, (think small apple size). Rushed to after hours doctor who referred me for an ultrasound. This confirmed that the entire left teste was now a tumor. Within a week I had a single orchidectomy (removal of the affected teste) and I have just had a single cycle of chemo to make sure nothing else was floating aournd my body. Scary but the survival rate is over 98%, particularly if caught early. Everything else ‘functions’ normally afterwards as well – phew.
Get checking and if you notice anything see a doctor ASAP!!! My doctor said some patients have left it till it was the size of a rugby ball before seeing anyone – WTF!!!

13 Alejandro June 11, 2009 at 5:03 pm

It’s amazing how some men still won’t monitor their own health because they think it’s a sign of weakness, effeminate, homosexual, etc. I’ve been giving myself regular testicle exams for years. A buddy of mine never thought about it until I mentioned it a few years ago, and – as fate would have it – he discovered a small tumor on his left one! He had to have the entire testicle removed and undergo treatment to ensure the cancer hadn’t spread. He’s married with 3 kids and is the only one in his household working, so that’s a perfect example of why men should take care of themselves. As with any disease, the person who gets sick often isn’t the only one who suffers.

14 Robert June 11, 2009 at 7:22 pm

I tell you what guys, this is (not just the day 11 task) is exactly what I have needed. It is time to re-organise myself, me life and my situation. Great work. Thank you.

15 Dave June 16, 2009 at 9:31 am

Take it from a guy who only has one left, due to cancer. Check them regularly.

16 Dan July 31, 2009 at 1:05 am

You have got to be kidding. This is ridiculously humiliating and disgusting. It’s one thing if your sex partner should notice something but to mess around with the boys like that is just disgusting. I don’t think there’s any reasonable need to “examine” yourself like that.

17 Kaz December 15, 2009 at 3:18 pm

Uh, Dan, that is a totally immature way to look at it. Maybe you should read the comments above of men who actually found cancer when they checked. Would you rather die of cancer because it was too “humiliating” to examine yourself?

18 Survivor Dave March 29, 2010 at 2:42 pm

Just going through this thread and felt the need to contribute. I am a 5 year survivor of testicular cancer, husband and father of two girls (the second one conceived just prior to diagnosis).
I used to take an uneducated approach to “self-attention to personal health” before this happened to me.
Long story short, I woke up one night and felt like I got kicked in the groin, thought it was my wife since she has kicked me in her sleep before. Doubled over in pain, out of bed. The pain subsided and I went back to sleep. I told my wife about it, she said go get checked out! I blew it off, said it was fine, no worries. 3 nights later, the same thing happened. Called my doc that morning. One exam, ultrasound, and immediate surgery – post 2 doc consults (highly recommend getting a second opinion because the first doc wanted to gut me like a fish and pull out all my lymph nodes), and 3 rounds of chemo later, and I’m doing great. I’m currently training for my first Ironman.

I still think what would’ve happened had I let this go until it was too late… The thought of my wife being without me, and my daughters growing up without a father… is like getting punched in the heart.

Thanks AoM for including this and bringing it to light. And please don’t ever think, “This will never happen to me”. I did, once.

19 Andriy January 7, 2013 at 11:25 am

I just check it! Two balls are present!
I feel better now.

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