How to check your testicles for lumps

Dr Unnati Desai Dr Unnati Desai National Lead for GP Services
Understanding how to properly check your testicles for lumps is something every man should know how to do. Getting to know their unique size and shape makes spotting abnormalities like lumps and areas of swelling easier.

Knowing your anatomy and what to look and feel for will also give you an idea of when to seek the opinion of a professional GP or clinician.

How do I perform a self-examination?

Examining your testicles is quick and easy. Examine them one by one using the steps outlined below:

  • Start by taking your testicle in between your thumb and index finger
  • Imagine your testicle is three sections (top, middle and bottom) 
  • Roll your thumb and finger over each section
  • Look for lumps, bumps, or areas that feel “swollen”
  • Stand in front of a mirror in a well lit room and look for any changes to size, shape, or colour

What not to do

Avoid the following when self-examining your testicles:

  • Checking your testicles all the time. Once a month is enough
  • Pulling your testicles down if they are tucked up
  • Rough handling or “grabbing” any part of the testicle
  • Squeezing the fleshy part of the testicle in search of something
  • Pinching the epididymis (the coiled tubing that attaches to the head of each testicle)
  • Panicking. If you find a lump or swollen area, stay calm and book an appointment with your GP

Where should I do it?

You may find standing up makes examining your testicles easier. Gravity will cause them to drop inside your scrotum, giving you easier access to the fleshy area you are looking to examine.

If you’re cold or have just exercised, you may find your testicles sit further up inside your scrotum. This can make examination difficult.

Lots of men like to have a warm shower or bath before they examine their testicles. This is because the warmth will cause your testicles to drop and hang naturally.

Stay consistent

Make sure you’re consistent with how, where, and when you’re examining your testicles. This helps prevent certain factors that can cause fluctuations in what you feel.

Can you check your testicles at home?

You don’t need an expert to check your testicles for you. Getting in the habit of checking yourself regularly at home means you will become aware of their shape and size so you can easily notice any swelling or lumps.

You should consult a professional if you notice something unusual.

What am I looking for?

  • Changes to size and shape
  • Lumps
  • Swelling
  • Pointy growths
  • The feeling of “heaviness” in the scrotum 
  • A dull ache
  • The appearance of fluid build up

What to do if you find a lump

Whenever you spot something that doesn’t look or feel right, you should get checked out as soon as possible. Never leave a lump to “go away” or “disappear”.

A medical professional will examine you and may recommend an ultrasound scan to make sure the lump isn’t cancerous. After that, you can discuss treatment if the benign lump or cyst is causing you pain or discomfort.

Are lumps always cancerous?

No. In fact the overwhelming majority of testicular lumps aren’t cancerous.

If you detect a lump, getting yourself checked out just in case is vital. Chances are your lump is harmless, but getting a professional opinion will give you peace of mind.

Some non-cancerous lumps include:

  • Cysts
  • Scrotal pearls
  • Spermatocele
  • Hydrocele
  • Varicocele

How often should I check my testicles?

We recommend checking your testicles once a month. This leaves enough time to notice any changes to size, shape, and texture.

What does a normal testicle feel like?

A normal testicle should feel firm (but not hard), smooth, and oval-shaped. Some people find it helpful to compare the natural shape with that of a small egg.

Your testicles should generally be about the same size, although it's not uncommon for one to be slightly larger than the other. They should feel symmetrical and have a consistent oval or “egg-like” shape.

The surface of your testicle should be smooth, without any prominent bumps or irregularities. The “fleshy” body of the testicle should feel firm but not rock-hard. 

Lastly, many men mistake parts of the epididymis for a lump. The epididymis is a normal part of the testicular anatomy and feels like a soft, rope-like structure that sits at the top and back of each testicle. It is not a lump or abnormal growth.

How easy should a lump be to locate?

Provided you’re carefully examining the front, back, and tip of the testicle, a lump shouldn’t be too hard to find if present.

What age should you start checking?

Starting self-exams should be encouraged during adolescence (typically around the age of 15) or when a boy enters puberty.

By this age, the testicles have started to develop further, and it becomes important for boys to become familiar with their anatomy in order to detect any potential changes early on.

It's essential to note that there's no rule about starting testicular self-exams. Some healthcare professionals may recommend teaching the process earlier, around age 13, while others might suggest starting a bit later. The key is to encourage awareness and regular self-exams as a part of overall health education.

If you’re looking for advice, consult a general practitioner who will be happy to instruct and assist you further.

Last updated Wednesday 15 May 2024

First published on Wednesday 15 May 2024