Early detection of testicular cancer makes it completely curable. If you have any doubts about how to check your testicles correctly, read on.

Testicular cancer is the most commonly diagnosed form of cancer among men ages 15-44. This year, an estimated 8,850 men in the United States will be diagnosed with testicular cancer, according to the American Cancer Society.

The average of diagnosis is 33, but 7 percent of cases are diagnosed in men who are 55 or older, and 7 percent are diagnosed in boys and adolescents. That’s why doctors recommend monthly self-exams for men over the age of 15.

Armed with that knowledge, it’s important to learn how to conduct a testicular self-examination. With early detection, testicular cancer is almost 100 percent curable.

A few easy tips on conducting a testicular self-exam

Doctors recommend checking your testicles for lumps once a month. You should be familiar with the shape, size and feel of your testicles so that you can quickly discover any changes in the way they feel and look. It’s normal for one testicle (often the right one) to be a little larger than the other. The left one often hangs a little lower.

Warm water allows the scrotum to relax and the testicles drop down for easy inspection, so the perfect time for checking your ball is during or after a warm shower or a bath.

Use both hands to gently roll each testicle with just a little pressure between your fingers. Place your thumb over the top of the testicle and roll it between your fingers, with the index and middle fingers of each hand behind the testicle. Your testicles should feel firm and smooth, and have the consistency of a hard-boiled egg. Just be gentle with them!

It is normal to feel the epididymis, which is the soft, rope-like, sperm-carrying tube at the top of the back of each testicle. You should 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.

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 the groin, you should immediately schedule an appointment with your doctor or urologist.

“The most common presentation of testicular cancer is painless mass,” said Hooman Djaladat, MD, assistant professor of clinical urology at Keck School of Medicine of USC and a urologist at the USC Institute of Urology of Keck Medicine of USC. “However, it might present with painful swelling, signs of infection, abdominal and back pain due to spread of disease to retroperitoneum and constitutional symptoms.”

Don’t stress if you notice something abnormal because there are many reasons for having lumps that are much less serious than cancer. But you should still get professional help, as they may be a sign of another ailment and infection that will need proper attention.

In addition to lumps, you need to be on the lookout for the following symptoms

  • Enlargement or 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

Checking your testicles on a regular basis will make you better at distinguishing a lump from the normal feel of your testicles. If you do notice something abnormal, don’t delay — contact your physician and have it checked out.

By Ramin Zahed

If you need to schedule an appointment or to learn more about the USC Institute of Urology, visit http://urology.keckmedicine.org. To schedule an appointment with a urologist, call (800) USC-CARE (800-872-2273) or visit http://urology.keckmedicine.org/request-an-appointment/.