Testicular cancer and self-examination

What is testicular cancer

Cancer of the testicles, also known as testicular cancer, is one of the less common cancers. It usually affects younger men between the ages of 15 and 49.

Testicular cancer occurs when normal, healthy cells, which are carefully regulated by the body, begin to reproduce uncontrollably within an area of the body such as the testicles.

  • Over 2200 men will be diagnosed with testicular cancer in the UK each year.
  • Over 21,000 men will be diagnosed in Europe each year and around 55,000 globally.
  • It most commonly affects men between the ages of 15-49 and is statistically the most common cancer in men aged between 25-49 in the UK (Cancer Research UK).
  • Around 47% of men diagnosed will be under the age of 35.
  • 98% of men will live for years after treatment.
  • Around 60 young men may die of testicular cancer each year.

Causes of testicular cancer

The cause or causes of testicular cancer are unknown, but a number of things have been identified that increase the chance of developing the condition. These include:

  • Having a family history of testicular cancer. Men with a brother or father who’ve had testicular cancer are slightly more at risk of getting it - although the risk is still small. Some research has indicated that there may be direct genetic factors involved in this process.
  • Being born with undescended testicles (cryptorchidism). The testicles of a male baby form in its abdomen while in the mother’s womb and normally descend into the scrotum at birth or shortly afterwards. Around 10% of men diagnosed with testicular cancer may have a history of this condition. Although it can be corrected using a minor surgical technique during childhood (an operation called an orchidopexy) the risk of developing testicular cancer still remains greater.
  • Pre-cancerous cells found inside the testicle known as carcinoma in situ (CIS). They may be found when a man has a testicular biopsy for instance during investigations into infertility. This is also referred to as intratubular germ cell neoplasia (IGCN). There is a 50% chance that these cells will develop into testicular cancer within 5 years.

Testicular self-examination

The testicular self-examination, or (TSE), is a quick, simple, painless, exam that you can perform on yourself in the privacy of your own home.

All guys should perform the TSE once a month from the time they are 15 years old.

Steps to the monthly testicular self-exam

  • Check yourself after a bath or a shower.
  • Stand in front of a mirror. Support your testicles with one hand and feel (examine) each one with your other hand.
  • Roll your testicles between your index finger and thumb, feeling around for any lumps or bumps, hardened areas.

What to look out for

  • A lump - pea shaped, round shaped or may even feel like a piece of rice.
  • Swelling in a testicle, which is usually painless - occasionally the swelling may suddenly increase in size and become painful.
  • Pain or heaviness in the scrotum.

Lumps and bumps on the testicles may be other things, but you still must get this checked out!

Orchid cancer has produced a leaflet to help raise awareness of testicular health with step by step instructions on how to perform a testicular self-examination.

To make an appointment or for further advice, please call:

0300 303 1948

Phoneline open 08:15-16:45 Monday-Friday

(closed 12:30-13:30 for lunch)