A Testicular Exam

You can help to maintain your health with a simple, three-minute testicular exam.

Learning how to do this self-exam could detect varicocele, epididymitis, or even testicular cancer. So, would you do it?

Hopefully, your answer is yes!

Today, we’re talking about a testicular exam. If you’re wondering, what is a testicular self-exam? Or how to perform self-testicular exams, then this is for you!

Here’s What A Testicular Exam Is

The male sex organs include testicles in the scrotum (the pouch behind the penis). Your testicles produce sperm and testosterone.

While a doctor or medical specialist can check your testicles for abnormalities, you can also learn to perform a self-exam at home. 

How to Perform a Testicular Self-Exam

Examining your testicles is quick and pain-free. It involves checking the area for noticeable or irregular shrinking, swelling, or lumps.

Once you learn how to do a self-exam, you can do it regularly. 

Do your self-exams after a warm bath or shower because the skin around the scrotum is more relaxed.

There are only a few simple steps!

  1. Use both hands to examine one testicle and then the other. Next, roll each testicle between your fingers and thumbs.
  2. Do you feel any changes in the shape or feel of your testicles?
  3. If you notice what feels like a small lump, please contact your doctor.

Noticing an irregularity doesn’t always mean you’re seriously ill. But it’s better to be safe!

Signs That Your Self-Exam Is Normal

It’s also good to know when your self-exam is normal. Here’s what to look for:

  • You feel no pain or discomfort
  • Both testicles are smooth and firm (not hard)
  • No lumps or bumps are noticeable.

You may notice one testicle hangs lower or is a different size and shape. You may also feel a spongy tube running down the back of your testicles, that’s the epididymis, and it’s natural. 

self-testicular exam

Seven Conditions You Can Diagnose During Your Self-Exam

Early detection is the most critical prevention in many serious conditions involving the testicles. 

A testicular self-exam can assist in an early diagnosis or prevention of the following:

#1 Cancer of the testicles

Testicular cancer can present as a hard, pea-sized lump under the skin of the testicle, accompanied by pain or discomfort in the scrotum or testicles.

If your scrotum feels heavy, your lower belly, back, groin, or scrotum aches, your breasts feel tender, or you notice a growth, it can indicate testicular cancer.

A swollen testicle or fluid build-up can be another early sign of cancer—please contact your doctor immediately!

#2 Testicles aren’t descended

Some men can’t feel one of their testicles during a self-exam. It may be an undescended testicle, and although it’s rare in adults, it may cause infertility.

It’s essential to seek treatment for undescended testicles because this part of the male sex organ needs to be cooler than the rest of the body to produce sperm. If the testicles aren’t descended, they usually remain too warm, and sperm can’t mature normally.

#3 Varicocele

It could be varicocele if you feel mild pain or discomfort during a self-exam, and it’s due to enlarged veins with the scrotum.

Varicocele happens when blood pools in the veins instead of circulating oxygen-depleted blood through the body. 

Undiagnosed varicocele can result in low sperm count and infertility. Sometimes, varicocele begins during puberty and worsens over time. 


#4 Epididymitis

The testicles can get infected with epididymitis, and a symptom is sudden pain or swelling in the scrotum. This condition can become chronic or even lead to infertility if left untreated.

An epididymitis infection happens within the tube on the back of each testicle—causing an inflamed epididymis.

Epididymitis can be sexually transmitted or due to a bladder or urinary tract infection.

#5 Testicular torsion

If a testicle rotates too far within the scrotum, it can restrict blood flow and result in severe pain and swelling—testicular torsion.

It’s more common in boys between 12 to 18, but testicular torsion can happen anytime.

The vital thing to know is that testicular torsion requires immediate medical attention and, often, surgery.

When it’s treated early, the testicle is often saved. But a testicle with severe testicular torsion can be so damaged from lack of blood flow that a doctor must remove it.

#6 Spermatocele

If you notice a fluid-filled (not hard) lump on the back of a testicle where the epididymis is, it could be a spermatocele. These are painless cysts that rarely require any medical attention.

#7 Hydrocele

The scrotum sometimes swells when fluid gathers in the thin sheath around the testicle. It is called hydrocele, and some men develop it after an injury to the scrotum or inflammation in the area.

Generally, hydroceles are painless and not harmful. However, if you notice swelling during your self-exam, please contact your doctor. 

Important Testicular Cancer Facts

Testicular cancer prevention

Cancers of the testicle affect about one in 250 people. That’s pretty rare, but testicular cancer is the most common in males between 15 and 34 years old.

Here are other important facts:

  • Testicular cancer is curable, especially when detected early.
  • The risk of death is only 1 in 5,000 cases, and early detection is key.
  • While some testicular cancers are unavoidable, you can decrease your risks by seeking treatment for an undescended testicle. 

OHN About Testicular Exams

Oakwood Health Network (OHN) is a network of experienced doctors and specialists in men’s health.

OHN frequently performs procedures like a testicular exam, and we can also increase your comfort level in performing a testicular self-exam at home.

If you attempt a testicular self-exam and feel pain or a lump that wasn’t there before, please make an appointment with your doctor immediately. A blood test, biopsy, or ultrasound is commonly scheduled to diagnose problems.

Don’t hesitate to contact us if you have questions about a testicular self-exam or other men’s health issues. OHN is here for you!

Bhargava, H.D. (ed.) (2020) Testicular exam, WebMD. WebMD. Available at: https://www.webmd.com/men/testicular-exam (Accessed: November 7, 2022).

Khatri, M. (ed.) (2022) Epididymitis, WebMD. WebMD. Available at: https://www.webmd.com/men/what-is-epididymitis (Accessed: November 11, 2022).

Pruthi, S. (ed.) (2020) Hydrocele, Mayo Clinic. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. Available at: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/hydrocele/symptoms-causes/syc-20363969 (Accessed: November 9, 2022).

Pruthi, S. (ed.) (2022) Testicular torsion, Mayo Clinic. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. Available at: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/testicular-torsion/symptoms-causes/syc-20378270 (Accessed: November 11, 2022).

Pruthi, S. (ed.) (2022) Varicocele, Mayo Clinic. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. Available at: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/varicocele/symptoms-causes/syc-20378771 (Accessed: November 9, 2022).

Testicular exam (2020) Mayo Clinic. Mao Foundation for Medical Education and Research. Available at: https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/testicular-exam/about/pac-20385252 (Accessed: November 5, 2022).

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What are Undescended Testicles (Cryptorchidism)? (no date) Urology Care Foundation. American Urological Association. Available at: https://www.urologyhealth.org/urology-a-z/c/cryptorchidism (Accessed: November 9, 2022).

What is Testicular Self-Examination? (no date) Urology Care Foundation. American Urological Association. Available at: https://www.urologyhealth.org/urology-a-z/t/testicular-self-exam (Accessed: November 5, 2022).