Men: here's how to check your testicles for lumps

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Checking your testicles may help spot cancer early, [Photo: Getty]

When it comes to problems “down there”, many of us are too embarrassed to confide in a loved one, let alone a doctor we’ve never met.

Men are particularly bad at seeking help, visiting their GP just four times a year compared to six for a woman, The Guardian reported.

The goods news is men can keep on top of their “intimate health” from the privacy of their own home.

READ MORE: Chris Hughes reveals his brother has been diagnosed with testicular cancer

Checking your testicles for lumps just once a month can help spot everything from cysts and swelling to infections and even cancer.

While the thought may leave some red faced, 98% of men are still alive five years or more after their diagnosis, NHS statistics show.

READ MORE: Five Lesser Known Cancers That Every Man Should Be Aware About

Most men’s testicles are around the same size, however, for some one is slightly bigger than the other or hangs lower.

Testicles should feel smooth, with no lumps or bumps, according to the NHS.

Some men may notice a small tube at the back of each testicle. This is the epididymis, which stores and carries sperm.

While finding a lump may leave many panicking, just two in 50 bumps “down there” are cancerous, NHS statistics show.

Most of the time, the hard mass is a varicocele: enlarged veins in the testicles.

Fluid may also swell in the testicles to create a hydrocele or a cyst could develop in the epididymis.

In more serious cases, a lump may be a sign of a testicular torsion. This occurs when a testicle twists, causing the cord that supplies blood to the scrotum to twist with it.

The reduced blood flow causes severe and sudden pain, as well as swelling. This requires immediate surgery to save the testicle, with it potentially having to be amputated if it goes without blood too long.

The epididymis can also become swollen and tender as a result of a chlamydia infection.

How to check your testicles

The British charity It’s In The Bag recommends men start checking their testicles once a month from the age of 15.

Testicular cancer is unusual in that it tends to affect young men. According to the NHS, those aged 15 to 49 are most at risk.

To help make the “check up” part of their routine, the charity urges boys to “have a feel” when they get out the shower.

Once they know what their testicles “normally” look and feel like, they can better spot any changes.

Boys and men should rest their testicle in the palm of their hand, before gently rolling each one between their finger and thumb.

READ MORE: Shea Theodore announces he was treated for testicular cancer over offseason

Look for any lumps on the front or side, which may be painless.

Swellings or growth should also raise alarm bells.

Also be aware of any firmness, heaviness, discomfort or differences between the two testicles.

If you spot any of the above, see your GP.

The doctor will check themselves by rolling your testicles between their thumb and forefinger. Point out when they hit any pain or swelling.

They may also shine a light through the scrotum to see if it goes through the lump. Cancerous masses tend to be solid, while cysts are more “transparent”.

How common is testicular cancer? And how is it treated?

Considered one of the less common forms of the disease, 2,364 new cases of testicular cancer emerged in the UK between 2014 and 2016, Cancer Research UK statistics show.

Testicular tumours therefore account for just 1% of cancers in men, NHS statistics show.

And in the US, around 9,560 men are expected to have been diagnosed by the end of this year, according to the American Cancer Society.

Around 95% of cases are germ cell testicular cancer, which are the cells where sperm is produced.

Testicular cancer does not always have a clear cause.

However, men born with undescended testicles are around three times more at risk, according to the NHS.

Between 3% and 5% of boys are born with their testicles in their abdomen. These usually descend on their own within a year.

If they fail to move down naturally, surgery may be required to position them in the scrotum.

Testicles are on the outside of the body due to sperm production taking place at 35°C (95°F), which is 2°C (35°F) cooler than body temperature.

Exposure to these higher temperatures, even for a short while, may trigger cancer later in life.

Testicular tumours may also have a genetic link, with men being around four times more likely to develop the disease if their father suffered.

And having a brother with the condition raises a man’s risk by eight times.

Having cancer in one testicle also increases the odds it will develop in the other by between 12 and 18 times, NHS statistics show.

However, “almost all men treated for testicular germ cell tumours are cured”, with it being “rare” for the disease to return more than five years later.

Treatment almost always involves surgically removing the affected testicle.

Providing the other is healthy, most men can still have children.

Chemo or radiotherapy may be required in rare cases.

Find more information on testicular cancer on the NHS website.