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How to test your testicles

A massive 98 percent of testicular cancer cases can be treated if caught early enough. Testicular Self Examination (TSE) is the easiest way to identify any potential testicular problems. It only takes a few minutes to perform and is best performed monthly after a bath or shower when the scrotum is warm and relaxed.

Check out these tips we got from male cancer charity Orchid.

Get Orchid's self examination tips

  • Check each testicle separately, using one or both of your hands (see link above for reference).

  • Roll each testicle between the thumb and forefinger to check that the surface is free of lumps or bumps. Do not squeeze!

  • Get to know our balls; their size, texture and anatomy. Become familiar with the feel of the epididymis collecting tube, which runs behind the testicle. This is normal and is often mistaken for new growth. Lumps in the epididymis are more common and almost invariably benign.

  • Encourage your partner to have a go as he or she may be more likely to identify a problem in the future and get you to do something about it.

  • Visit your doctor immediately if you find any new lumps

  • Perform testicular self-examination on a regular basis - at least monthly. If you find an unusual lump in your testis get it checked by your GP. The likelihood will be that it will not be testicular cancer but testicular cancer still needs to be ruled out. Do not delay as in rare circumstances some types of testicular cancer can progress quickly.

The Facts:Testicular cancer most commonly affects men aged between 15 and 45. Every year in the UK around 2,300 men are diagnosed with the disease.

If found at an early stage a cure rate of 98 percent is usually possible and even when testicular cancer has spread to other areas of the body cure can still be achieved. In fact, according to recent research overall 98 percent of men diagnosed with any stage testicular cancer will be alive 10 years after treatment.

The most common symptom is a painless pea-sized lump or swelling in the testicles. Other symptoms include a dull ache in the scrotum (the sac of skin that hangs underneath the penis and contains the testicles) or a feeling of dragging or heaviness in that area. Although rare, symptoms may also include breast tenderness and swelling as well as back pain.

Men should check their testicles every month for any unusual lumps, much like women are advised to check their breasts regularly for abnormalities.

Types of testicular cancer:The different types of testicular cancer are classified by the type of cells the cancer first begins in.

The most common type of testicular cancer is known as ‘germ cell testicular cancer’, which accounts for around 95 percent of all cases. Germ cells are a type of cell that the body uses to help create sperm.

There are two main subtypes of germ cell testicular cancer. They are:

  • Seminomas, which account for around 40-45% of all germ cell testicular cancers

  • Non-seminomas, also accounts for 40-45% of all germ cell testicular cancers

Seminomas and non-seminomas tend to respond well to chemotherapy, a treatment that uses medication to kill cancer cells. Less common types of testicular cancer include:

  • Leydig cell tumours - accounting for 1-3% of cases

  • Sertoli cell tumours - accounting for 1%

  • Lymphoma - accounting for around 4% of cases

Risk factors:The number of cases of testicular cancer that are diagnosed each year in the UK has roughly doubled since the mid-1970’s. Unlike many cancers, there are few known strong risk factors for testicular cancer. While most of these cancers occur in unsuspecting individuals, some risk factors can be traced in a minority of cases. These include:

  • A family history of testicular cancer

  • Being born with undescended testicles (cryptorchidism). About 3-5 percent of boys are born with their testicles located inside their abdomen, which usually descend into the scrotum during the first four months of life

  • 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. There is a 50% chance that these cells will develop into testicular cancer within 5 years.

  • A previous history of testicular cancer. Like all cancers there is always a risk that it can return.

  • Research suggests that testicular cancer is slightly more common in men who have fertility problems resulting in poor or abnormal sperm

  • Caucasian men have a higher risk of testicular cancer than men from other ethnic groups

  • Men with HIV are more likely to develop testicular cancer

Testicular cancer is one of the most treatable types of cancer. Around 98 percent of men with early stage testicular cancer will be completely cured. Even cases of more advanced testicular cancer, where the cancer has spread outside the testicles to nearby tissue, have an 80 percent chance of being cured. Compared to other cancers, deaths from testicular cancer are rare. Cancer Research UK say that around 60 men die from testicular cancer every year in the UK. Treatment for testicular cancer includes the surgical removal of the affected testicle (which should not affect fertility or the ability to have sex), and chemotherapy. Less commonly, radiotherapy ( a treatment that uses radiation to kill cancer cells).

Check Your Chaps is supported by Prostate Cancer UK and male cancer charity Orchid.

Help and SupportIf you or anyone you know is concerned about testicular cancer, you can speak to one of Orchid’s male cancer nurse specialists by calling the free national male cancer helpline on: 0808 802 0010 or emailing the nurses direct on helpline@orchid-cancer.org.uk. All calls are treated in confidence.

The helpline opening times during #CheckYourChaps is 8am-5pm, Monday to Friday.

Normal opening hours are Mondays and Wednesdays 10am-5pm and nurses aim to reply to all contact within 48 hours.

Find out more about the Check Your Chaps campaign here

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