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Testicular awareness

How your testicles look and feel may not be something you’ve given much thought to. But it pays to be familiar with what’s normal for you, and know a few potential changes to look out for. This can help you to find lumps and swellings that may be a sign of testicular cancer at an early stage. And if testicular cancer is found early, it can almost always be cured.

Your testicles, also known as testes, are two small, oval-shaped structures inside your scrotum. Their main function is to produce sperm and the male sex hormone testosterone. Testosterone has a number of roles – among these is giving you your sex drive (libido) and ability to have erections.

Most lumps in testicles aren’t testicular cancer and are caused by other conditions. These include hernias, hydroceles (a collection of fluid in your scrotum) or epididymal cysts (fluid-filled lumps).

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An image showing the male pelvis


  • How to be testicle aware How to be testicle aware

    Once you hit puberty, check your testicles regularly – ideally every month. The best time to do it is while you’re in the shower or bath, or just afterwards. The warmth will relax your scrotum and make it easier to feel anything unusual.

    • Hold your scrotum in the palms of both hands.
    • Feel the size and weight of each testicle. You may notice that one testicle is larger or hangs lower than the other (this is normal).
    • Get to know the feel of your testicles by rolling each one between your finger and thumb. They should feel smooth, without any lumps or swellings.
    • Compare your testicles with each other – get to know any differences between them.

    Towards the top, at the back of each testicle you will feel a soft, tender tube – this is the epididymis. This is there to store sperm so it’s good to remember where it is so you don’t mistake it for a lump.

  • Testicle changes to get advice about Testicle changes to get advice about

    When you examine your testicles, look for any:

    • lump or hardening
    • change in consistency – one may feel like it’s full of fluid, for example
    • change in size, shape or weight

    Other changes to look out for are:

    • a feeling of heaviness in your scrotum
    • any pain or discomfort in your testicle or scrotum
    • a dull ache in your back, tummy (abdomen), scrotum or groin
    • swollen, tender breasts
    • blood in your semen

    These symptoms may be caused by problems other than testicular cancer but if you have any of them, see your GP for advice.

  • Worried about testicular cancer?

    Get a picture of your current health and potential future health risks with a Bupa health assessment. Find out more today.

  • FAQ: Can injuring my testicles cause testicular cancer? FAQ: Can injuring my testicles cause testicular cancer?


    No, nothing has been found that suggests an injury to your testicles will cause cancer.

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    Nobody has proved that there is any link between injuring your testicles and getting testicular cancer. However, if you injure your testicles, it can cause swelling and inflammation that may hide lumps or other changes and make cancer difficult to detect. On the flip side, an injury to your testicles may bring a lump to your attention.

    Doctors don’t know why you may develop testicular cancer yet but a number of things can make it more likely. It’s probably caused by a combination of things.

    If you notice any changes in your testicles or have any concerns about testicular cancer, see your GP.

  • FAQ: What will happen if I see my GP about a lump in my testicle? FAQ: What will happen if I see my GP about a lump in my testicle?


    You may feel embarrassed seeing your GP about a lump in your testicle, but remember this is nothing new to them. Your GP will ask about your symptoms and examine you, and may also ask you about your medical history. If your GP thinks the lump isn't normal, they will refer you to a specialist for more tests. These may include blood tests and an ultrasound scan.

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    You’re likely to be referred to a urologist – a doctor who specialises in identifying and treating conditions that affect the urinary system and genitals. They will feel the lump to see if it’s likely to be a cancer or not.

    You’ll probably need to have blood tests and an ultrasound scan of your testicles. An ultrasound scan uses sound waves to produce an image of the inside of your scrotum and your testicle. It can help to show whether the lump is caused by cancer or another condition.

    The outlook for men diagnosed with testicular cancer is one of the best for all cancers. More than nine out of 10 men who are diagnosed early are cured.

  • FAQ: What is a hydrocele? FAQ: What is a hydrocele?


    A hydrocele is a collection of fluid in your scrotum that causes swelling. It isn’t painful.

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    Your testicle is surrounded by a protective covering. This makes a fluid that helps your testicles to move freely. Any extra fluid usually drains away but sometimes it can build up if your body makes too much, or if it doesn’t empty away properly. This collection of fluid is called a hydrocele.

    A hydrocele usually causes a soft, often painless, swelling in your testicle. It can be caused by an injury to your testicles or an infection, but may also be caused by testicular cancer. Some baby boys are born with a hydrocele – these don’t usually need treatment and get better within a year or two.

    If your hydrocele is small, you’re unlikely to need treatment. If it’s large and uncomfortable, you may need to have the hydrocele drained or removed in an operation.

    If you develop any lump or swelling in your testicle, see your GP for advice.

  • Resources Resources

    Further information


    • Testicular cancer. BMJ Best Practice., published 24 September 2014
    • Lumps in the groin and scrotum. PatientPlus., reviewed 20 June 2014
    • Testes and epididymis anatomy. Medscape., published 30 October 2013
    • Ductus deferens (vas deferens) and ejaculatory duct anatomy. Medscape., published 11 July 2013
    • Understanding how testosterone affects men. National Institutes of Health., published September 2013
    • Hypogonadism. Medscape., published 20 October 2014
    • Testicular self-examination. British Association of Urological Surgeons., published March 2014
    • Epididymal cysts. PatientPlus., reviewed 20 October 2014
    • Testicular self-exam. American Cancer Society., published 20 January 2015
    • Map of Medicine. Testicular Cancer. International View. London: Map of Medicine; 2013 (Issue 1)
    • Testicular cancer. PatientPlus., reviewed 24 November 2014
    • Some facts about testicular cancer. American Cancer Society., published January 2015
    • Testicular cancer risks and causes. Cancer Research UK., published 15 January 2014
    • Hydrocele. BMJ Best Practice., published 14 August 2014
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    Reviewed by Rachael Mayfield-Blake, Bupa Health Content Team, April 2015.

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