Testicular cancer: Signs, symptoms and how to check for lumps

Morrisons has teamed up with the NHS to offer advice on how to check for potential warning signs of testicular and breast cancer.

Watch: Morrisons' underwear to include NHS cancer check labels

Men are being urged to check their testicles for early signs of cancer as research reveals survival rates improve with early diagnosis.

While nearly all men survive testicular cancer, if the cancer has spread, survival for five years or more can reduce to 65%.

To help tackle the problem Morrisons is teaming up with the NHS to offer advice to people on how to check for potential warning signs of testicular and breast cancer.

Certain labels in the Nutmeg brand sold across the supermarket will offer advice in boxer shorts and crop-top bras on what to look for when checking.

Read more:

Symptoms of testicular cancer can include painless swelling or a lump in one of the testicles or any change in shape or texture of the testicles.

Experts believe men who regularly check for lumps could spot cancer before it becomes severe.

Statistics reveal there are 2,400 new testicular cancer cases in the UK every year, that's more than six every day.

Men are being urged to look out for the early signs of testicular cancer. (Getty Images)
Men are being urged to look out for the early signs of testicular cancer. (Getty Images)

But while mammograms and cervical screenings help identify common tumours in women, testicular cancer has no national screening programme, making it all the more important that men get a handle on what is normal for them.

Testicular cancer is one of the most treatable forms of the disease, with nearly all (98%) patients surviving at least five years post-diagnosis in England and Wales.

Nevertheless, the tumour spreads in around 5% of cases, which often requires more aggressive treatment than surgery.

Spotting the disease before it becomes advanced could help a patient avoid chemotherapy, preserve fertility and even save a life.

Testicular cancer signs and symptoms

The NHS says typical symptoms are a painless swelling or lump in one of the testicles, or any change in shape or texture of the testicles.

"The swelling or lump can be about the size of a pea, but may be larger," the site explains. "Most lumps or swellings in the scrotum are not in the testicle and are not a sign of cancer, but they should never be ignored."

  • an increase in the firmness of a testicle

  • a difference in appearance between 1 testicle and the other

  • a dull ache or sharp pain in your testicles or scrotum, which may come and go

  • a feeling of heaviness in your scrotum

For Wayne, 33, a cancer survivor from Cornwall, it was noticing an unusual lump on his testicle that lead to him making an appointment with his GP. Within two weeks was undergoing surgery and three years later, Wayne has the all-clear.

“Getting diagnosed early really can make all the difference, so remember, if something in your body doesn’t feel right, contact your GP,” Wayne advises.

man wearing shorts holding genitals. Men's health, venereologist, sexual disease
Testicular cancer can manifest as lumps, a change in texture or heaviness (Stock, Getty Images)

How to check your testicles for cancer

A recent study of more than 2,500 men found over three in five (62%) of those aged 18 to 34 were in the dark about how to check their testicles. Just under a third (28%) had not examined their testicles in the past year.

The NHS stresses men should "be aware of what feels normal" for them. "Get to know your body and see a GP if you notice any changes," it adds.

Macmillan Cancer Support says normal testicle should feel smooth and firm, but not hard.

When physically checking your testicles, the charity advises: "It can be easier to check the testicles during, or right after, a warm bath or shower when the scrotal skin is relaxed.

"Hold the scrotum in the palm of your hand. Use your fingers and thumb to examine each testicle."

You should feel for:

  • lumps or swellings

  • anything unusual

  • differences between the testicles.

It is normal for the testicles to be slightly different in size. It is also normal for one to hang lower than the other.

Testicular cancer survival rates improve with early diagnosis. (Getty Images)
Testicular cancer survival rates improve with early diagnosis. (Getty Images)

While a painless lump or swelling in one or both testicles can be a tell-tale symptom, testicular lumps are relatively common, often due to swollen blood vessels or cysts in the tubes around the testicles.

Although rarely caused by cancer, any swelling should always be checked by a GP.

"Performing a self-examination is as simple as rolling one testicle between [the] thumb and fingers, and feeling for what's normal for you," Sam Gledhill, Movember's global director of testicular cancer, previously told Yahoo UK.

"Repeat this technique with the second testicle. If something changes, starts to hurt, wasn't there before or generally worries you, please don't panic, but do get in front of a doctor and discuss it with them."

Cancer can also cause the testicles to change shape or texture, or feel unusually firm or heavy. One may also look different to the other.

A dull ache or sharp pain, which may come and go, should also raise alarm bells.