As young boys, we were often warned of the mythical dangers of genital exploration. There’s the ever-popular “you’ll go blind” scare tactic or the infamous “hairy palms” defense.
But as we grew older, we began to realize that genital examination is not only natural, but it might even save our lives.
Checking your balls — or as it’s medically known, testicular self-examination — is a useful technique for catching testicular cancer. If detected early, testicular cancer is almost 100 percent curable. In fact, very few cancers can be so successfully treated, which is why AskMen has decided to give you a step-by-step guide on how to inspect your little guys for lumps.
Without further ado, here's what you need to do.
Start checking early
This may come as somewhat of a surprise, but testicular cancer is the most common cancer in men between the ages of 15 and 34 (other age groups are still susceptible).
While testicular cancer is rare and only accounts for about 1% of all male cancers, it’s still important to understand that this really isn’t your grandfather’s disease we’re talking about. Generally speaking, this is a young man’s disease.
With that said, if you’re 15 years or older, it’s time you start checking your balls.
There really is no golden rule as to how often you should check your balls for testicular lumps. But realistically, once a month should do. Doing so will make you familiar with the shape, size and feel of your testicles so that you can more easily detect any changes.
Prepare your balls for inspection
The best time to check your balls is during or after a warm shower or bath. The warm water allows the scrotum to relax and the testicles to drop down for easy inspection.
Get to know your manhood
Check out our helpful diagram so that you know what you’re looking at. Remember that one testicle (usually the right one) is slightly larger than the other, while the left one may hang a little bit lower. This is completely normal.
Examine one testicle at a time
Using both hands, gently roll each testicle (with slight pressure) between your fingers. To do this, place your thumbs over the top of your testicle, then, with the index and middle fingers of each hand behind the testicle, roll the testicle between your fingers (be sure to check our handy diagram).
Know what your balls feel like
Your testicles should feel firm and smooth, about the consistency of a hard-boiled egg except without the egg shell.
Know what's normal
You may feel the epididymis (the sperm-carrying tube), which is a soft, rope-like tube located at the top of the back of each testicle. This is a normal lump.Know what's abnormal
When examining each testicle, feel for any firm masses, lumps or nodules along the front or sides. Lumps may be as small as a piece of rice or a pea and they are often painless.
See a doctor
If you notice any swelling, lumps or changes in the size or color of a testicle, or if you have any pain or achy areas in your groin, you should schedule an appointment with a doctor (preferably a urologist) right away.
It's not always cancerous
If you do notice something abnormal, don’t get overly anxious; there are many other causes of abnormal lumps that are much less serious than cancer. But that tidbit of info shouldn’t stop you from seeking help. Infections, for example, will still require prompt treatment.
OTHER SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS
Aside from testicular lumps, there are other signs and symptoms of testicular cancer that you should be aware of:
— An enlargement or significant shrinking of a testicle
— A feeling of heaviness in the scrotum
— A dull ache in the lower abdomen or in the groin
— A sudden collection of fluid in the scrotum
— Pain or discomfort in a testicle or in the scrotum
— Enlargement or tenderness of the breasts
WHEN IN DOUBT, GET IT CHECKED OUT
Let’s face it, human beings have a tendency to overreact when it comes to their health and chances are, you’re not a doctor. If you do notice something abnormal, don’t hesitate to have it checked out. Checking your balls regularly will hopefully make you better at distinguishing a real lump from your normal anatomy. But when in doubt, get it checked out. The worst that will come of a check-up is a little embarrassment, but that sure as heck beats cancer.