Testicular cancer - Prevention 

Preventing testicular cancer 

Testicular cancer cannot usually be prevented. But it is important to check your testicles regularly. See your GP if you notice any lumps or abnormalities.

Cancer is easier to treat when diagnosed early. If you regularly examine your testicles, you are more likely to notice any swelling or abnormalities at an early stage of development.

Checking your testicles

The best time to check your testicles is after a warm shower or bath, because this is when your scrotal skin will be most relaxed.

Hold your scrotum in the palms of your hands, and use your fingers and thumbs to examine your testicles. You should first feel the size and weight of your testicles. A lot of men have one testicle which is larger than the other. You may also have one testicle that hangs slightly lower than the other.

As well as feeling the size and weight of your testicles, gently feel each individually.

They should feel smooth with no lumps or swellings with a soft, tube-like section at the top and back of each testicle. This is your epididymis, which is used to store sperm. It may feel slightly tender, which is normal.

It is very rare to develop cancer in both testicles. If you are unsure about what your testicle should feel like, try comparing it to your other one.

If you find a lump or swelling, visit your GP as soon as possible.

Smoking

Of all of the known risk factors for testicular cancer, smoking is the most significant risk factor you can address.

If you smoke, giving up will half your risk of developing testicular cancer, as well as reducing your risk of getting many other serious health conditions, such as lung cancer and heart disease.

If you decide to stop smoking, your GP will be able to refer you to an NHS Stop Smoking Service, which will give you dedicated help and advice about the best ways to give up. You can also call the NHS Smoking helpline on 0800 022 4 332. Trained helpline staff can offer free expert advice and encouragement.

If you are committed to giving up smoking but do not want to be referred to a stop smoking service, your GP should be able to prescribe medical treatment to help with withdrawal symptoms you may have.

See the Health A-Z topic about Smoking - treatment and the Live Well section about how to stop smoking for more information.

Page last reviewed: 24/04/2012

Next review due: 24/04/2014

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Routine checks

There is disagreement among the international medical community about who should check for testicular cancer and how often.

The American Cancer Society (ACS) recommends regular checks are only required in men with pre-existing risk factors such as:

  • a family history of testicular cancer
  • a history of undescended testicles
  • being infertile

ACS argues there is no evidence that regular self-examinations help to lower the number of testicular cancer deaths, but it may be causing unnecessary anxiety and worry in men who have non-cancerous lumps (around 96% of all cases of lumps or swellings in the testicles). 

Organisations like the Department of Health (DH) and Cancer Research UK advise men check their testicles regularly (usually once a month).

They argue that even though the vast majority of cases of testicular lumps are not caused by cancer, routine self-examination is justified by the fact that the earlier testicular cancer is diagnosed, the greater the chance of it being cured.