Once you reach puberty, it’s a good idea to regularly examine your balls. Get to know your balls like the back of your hand, so you can detect any abnormalities or changes as soon as they happen.
The American cancer society says the first sign of testicular cancer is a painless swelling or lump in the testicles, which is why examining yourself regularly is the best way to detect cancer as soon as there is a swelling or lump.
Check Them Regularly
Checking your balls often will familiarise you with their usual feel and appearance. If you know them well, you will be able to identify even a subtle change.
Any change you find could be a symptom of something benign like an infection or cyst. Cancer isn’t as common, but it does share some signs.
Since a testicular exam isn’t usually part of your annual physical, your doctor might recommend you perform regular self-exams. If you do spot any change in feeling or appearance or a swelling or lump, you can consult your GP.
Testicular Self-Exam Step-by-Step
Step 1: Shave Your Balls Smooth
The first thing to do is shave your balls so they’re smooth and clean. Not only does this minimise the buildup of fungi and bacteria, but also minimises sweat and makes it easier to do a testicular self-exam.
Use dedicated shaving tools for the best result, since your balls are obviously very sensitive, and you won’t get the best result using a pair of scissors or ordinary razor (plus you’re risking injury with either of those).
An electric shaver like the BALLS Trimmer is your best option since it can cut the hair close to the skin without breaking through the surface. When you’re done you will feel and look smooth. So trim the hairs short before you start and use a trimmer which doesn’t have to come into direct contact with your skin.
Step 2: Enjoy a Warm Bath
It’s going to be easier to inspect your crown jewels after a warm bath or shower, since the heat boosts blood supply to the area and also helps relax the scrotum.
Also, the cremaster muscle which controls the temperature of your balls relaxes when warm and this also regulates how far your balls hang from your body. When it is relaxed, you will find it easier to spot any changes to your balls.
Step 3: Examine Your Balls All Over
Use your hands and fingers to cup your balls and check them all over. Put your index finger and middle finger under them and have your thumb on top to keep your penis out of the way. Roll the balls between your thumbs and fingers while you check.
Step 4: Check Your Nuts for Changes
Determine whether there is any change to the shape, size or feel of your testicles. It’s normal if one ball hangs lower or is larger than the other, unless that’s a new change. The shape and size of them shouldn’t make any difference to your self-exam.
If you spot anything unusual such as a hard lump or painful area, note the location and size. If you find something unusual, make an appointment with your GP.
If you feel something behind your balls which feels like a cord, don’t worry - this is a normal part of your scrotum responsible for storing and moving sperm, and not a swelling or lump.
Testicular Self-Exam Video
What to Be on the Lookout For
Feeling and examining your testicles should help you determine whether there are any abnormalities or changes, such as the following:
This would be any abnormal mass in the balls. Lumps are actually fairly common and there are various causes. Most are the result of a benign or non-cancerous condition and won’t require medical attention.
Lumps can also be a symptom of an underlying medical condition or the result of an injury, and appear in both balls or just one. Most lumps cause swelling or noticeable changes in the feel of your testicles.
A painful scrotal injury is a medical emergency and symptoms can include the following:
- A testicle in an unusual position
- Scrotal swelling
- Abdominal pain
- Frequent urinating
There are other symptoms depending on what is causing the lump. Here are some common causes of lumps in the testicles:
- Varicocele: Enlarged testicular veins and a lump feeling like a bag of worms. This might go away by itself without treatment.
- Epididymal cyst: Fluid-filled epididymis and one ball heavier than the other one. This might go away without treatment.
- Hydrocele: A fluid buildup in the testicles and visible swelling. This condition requires surgery.
- Infection: Bacteria and swelling, tenderness or pain in either one ball or both. This requires antibiotics.
Testicular cancer can also cause lumps and the following symptoms are associated with that:
- A dull ache in the abdomen
- Heavier than usual scrotum
- Fluid collecting in the scrotum
If you find a lump in your testicles during an exam, you’ll need to schedule a testicular cancer screening. A blood test is also helpful for the diagnosis of a testicular tumour. When found early on, this type of cancer can often be managed effectively.
Discomfort or Pain in the Scrotum or Testicles
Trauma or injury to your nutsack can be painful. This type of pain could also be due to a medical condition such as one of these:
- Inguinal hernia
- Orchitis (testicular inflammation)
- Gangrene (tissue death)
- A varicocele (enlarged veins in the balls)
- A hydrocele (scrotal swelling)
- Damage to the nerves by diabetic neuropathy
- Kidney stones
Scrotal pain might also be caused by testicular torsion or an STD. Ignoring it risks causing irreversible damage to your balls or scrotum.
Testicle Pain Treatment
Pain that doesn’t need any medical attention can be treated at home by taking whichever of these measures are applicable:
- Warm baths
- Wear an athletic supporter
- Ice to reduce swelling
- Ibuprofen or other medications
If the pain is severe however, get immediate medical attention. The doctor will examine your groin, abdomen and scrotum to determine what’s causing the pain. Sometimes additional tests might be required to accurately diagnose the condition. Tests your doctor might order include:
- Urine cultures
- Rectal exam
- Ultrasound of your scrotum and testicles
Once the cause of your testicular pain is known, the doctor will provide the right treatment, which might be pain medications, a surgical evaluation, antibiotics, or surgery.
Enlarged Scrotum or Testicles
Swelling like this can be caused by an injury or by an underlying condition. Inflammation, a fluid buildup or abnormal scrotal growth are also fairly common causes.
Your discomfort level can be anywhere from painless to agonising pain. Testicular or scrotal swelling can happen suddenly or gradually. Some of the causes of enlarged testicles are:
- Congestive heart failure
- Testicular cancer
- Inflammation or infection of the skin on the scrotum
- Enlarged cells in the scrotum
Enlarged Testicles Treatment
The treatment required depends on the cause of the issue. If you have a hernia or hydrocele, you might need surgery, while an infection should be cured by taking antibiotics.
If you ever find any unusual swelling or lumps in your balls, the National Cancer Institute recommends screening for testicular cancer. Your doctor might also recommend some at-home remedies like:
- Taking pain medication
- Avoiding strenuous activities
- Using an icepack on the scrotum
- Wearing athletic support
- A shallow bath to help with swelling
Make Sure to Check Your Balls Often
It’s too easy to forget testicular self-examination but it’s so important because being familiar with your balls means you can identify issues early on and potentially fight against testicular cancer.
Any unusual swellings or lumps mean you need to see your doctor and possibly get screened for testicular cancer.
Examining your balls regularly can help diagnose potentially life-threatening conditions like tumours in their earliest stages. It’s easier to manage such conditions if discovered early on.
The best time for a testicular self-examination is right after shaving your balls. Not only are clean, shaven balls more hygienic, but they also give you the opportunity to keep yourself healthy and spot if there’s anything unusual down there.
Every time you trim with a BALLS Trimmer, examine your balls carefully. Once you get into this habit, you’ll do it without thinking.