Checking for Testicular Cancer with Self Examination

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Article by Beverly Hansen O’Malley

Men's health is best protected by a lifestyle that includes regular testicular examination.  Early detection of tumours on the testes significantly increases survival.

Sixty seconds is all it takes to self examine your own testicles.  It is recommended that all men over the age of 14 conduct a testicular self exam once a month.  This is the best way to become familiar with your own anatomy so that any changes are noticed right away.

Here is the four step procedure for a testicular self examination (TSE).  It is recommended to do the self exam after a warm bath or shower when the structures in the scrotum are relaxed.

1. Holding the scrotum, place one testicle between your thumb and fingers and gently feel the entire surface of the testicle rolling it gently between your thumb and fingers.  It should be smooth with no lumps or bumps.

2. Keep feeling all around the testicle and move up to the top where you should be able to feel the epididymis.  It might even extend a bit behind the testicle.   It might be a little tender when pressed but should feel like a "comma" shaped structure.

3. Move up the epididymis and locate the spermatic cord.  It will feel like a tube.  It should be soft and movable.

4. Repeat on the other testicle and your testicular self exam is complete.  It should not take more that 60 seconds.

Treatment

Testicular cancer is treated by removal of the affected testicle (orhiectomy) and radiation or chemotherapy as follow-up treatment if needed.  Testicular self examination is the best way to ensure early detection of tumours on the testes.  If found and treated early survival rates are close to 90%.

Only one testicle is needed for male fertility and normal male sexual functioning so if testicular cancer is detected and treated early, the orchiectomy should not affect sexual activity or plans for family expansion.  Prosthetic devices are available to restore the normal feel and appearance after the removal of the affected testicle.

Early detection through self examination is the best health promotion strategy for protecting men’s health.  Like its female counterpart, breast cancer, testicular cancer is not preventable in the sense that the exact mechanisms of cause are not clearly known.