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Information from Your Family Doctor

Testicular Cancer: What to Look For


Am Fam Physician. 2006 Nov 1;74(9):1571-1572.

What is testicular cancer?

Cancer is when cells in the body grow out of control. This can happen in one or both of the testicles. The testicles are located in the scrotum. The scrotum is a skin “sack” that hangs beneath the penis. The testicles produce male hormones and sperm.

Who gets testicular cancer?

Testicular cancer is the most common cancer in young men (15 to 34 years of age). It also is more common in white men.

A man is more likely to get testicular cancer if he has any of the following:

  • A father or brother who has or has had testicular cancer

  • A testicle that did not come down into the scrotum, even if surgery was done to remove it or bring it down

  • Small testicles or testicles that aren’t shaped normally

  • Klinefelter’s syndrome (a genetic condition)

What are signs of testicular cancer?

Your doctor can check your testicles for signs of cancer during an exam. You also can do a self-exam.

Signs of testicular cancer include the following:

  • A hard, painless lump in the testicle (this is the most common sign)

  • Pain or a dull ache in the scrotum

  • A scrotum that feels heavy or swollen

  • Bigger or more tender breasts

How do I do a testicular self-exam?

The best time to do the exam is during or right after a shower or a bath. The warm water relaxes the skin on your scrotum and makes the exam easier.

During a self-exam you should:

  • Check your testicles one at a time. Use one or both hands.

  • Cup your scrotum with one hand to see if it feels normal (Drawing 1).

View/Print Figure

Drawing 1.

Cup your scrotum with one hand to see if it feels normal.

Drawing 1.

Cup your scrotum with one hand to see if it feels normal.

  • Place your index and middle fingers under one testicle with your thumb on top.

  • Gently roll the testicle between your thumb and fingers.

  • Feel for any lumps in or on the side of the testicle (Drawing 2). Repeat with the other testicle.

  • Feel along the epididymis (ep-ee-did-UH-mis) for swelling (Drawing 3). The epididymis is a soft, tubelike, comma-shaped structure behind the testicle that collects and carries sperm.

A normal adult testicle is about the size of golf ball and is round, smooth, and firm. It’s normal for one testicle to be a little bigger than the other. If you feel any bumps or lumps, visit your doctor right away.

View/Print Figure

Drawing 2.

Feel for any lumps in or on the side of the testicle.

Drawing 2.

Feel for any lumps in or on the side of the testicle.

View/Print Figure

Drawing 3.

Feel along the epididymis for swelling.

Drawing 3.

Feel along the epididymis for swelling.

Where can I get more information?

Your doctor

Mayo Clinic

Web site:

National Cancer Institute

Telephone: 1-800-4-CANCER (1-800-422-6237)

Web site:

This handout is provided to you by your family doctor and the American Academy of Family Physicians. Other health-related information is available from the AAFP online at

This information provides a general overview and may not apply to everyone. Talk to your family doctor to find out if this information applies to you and to get more information on this subject.


Copyright © 2006 by the American Academy of Family Physicians.
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