Diagnosis of testicular cancer involves a patient history, physical examination, and diagnostic tests. A patient history is taken to evaluate risk factors. During physical examination the physician feels (palpates) the testicles and the abdomen to detect a lump, swelling, or enlarged lymph nodes. Diagnostic tests include ultrasound, CT scan, and blood tests.
Physicians routinely examine the testicles during a physical. But monthly testicular self-examinations (TSE) are recommended after puberty, especially for men at increased risk for testicular cancer. Finding testicular tumors early increases the chance for curing the disease.
The best time to perform the exam is during or after a warm bath or shower, when the skin of the scrotum is relaxed. Examine each testicle gently with both hands. The index and middle fingers should be placed underneath the testicle, and the thumbs placed on the top. Roll the testicle gently between the thumbs and fingers.
One testicle may feel larger than the other. This is normal. You will also feel a cord-like structure on the top and back of the testicle that stores and transports the sperm. This is the epididymis and should not be confused with an abnormal lump.
If you find an abnormal lump on the front or the side of the testicle, make an appointment to see your physician immediately. If the lump is caused by an infection, the physician can prescribe treatment. If the lump is not an infection, the physician will perform tests to determine if it is a tumor.