Testicular lumps and swellings 

Introduction 

Any lumps or changes to the testicles should always be checked by a healthcare professional 

Men's health 18-39

Health for men aged 18 to 39, including eating well, exercise, how to lose the gut and secrets of a sex doctor

The testicles are part of the male reproductive system. They produce sperm and testosterone (male sex hormone). The testicles sit inside a loose sac of skin known as the scrotum, which hangs down behind the penis.

Testicular lumps and swellings can have many different causes. In rare cases, they can be a sign of testicular cancer. However, most lumps are benign (non-cancerous). Cancer Research UK estimates that less than four in every 100 testicular lumps are testicular cancer.

Types of testicular lumps and swellings

The four main types of testicular lumps and swellings are:

  • varicocele, a swelling caused by dilated (enlarged) veins within the scrotum
  • hydrocele, a swelling caused by fluid around the testicle 
  • epididymal cyst, a lump caused by a collection of fluid in the epididymis (a coiled tube behind the testicles)  if it contains sperm, it is known as a spermatocele
  • testicular torsion, a sudden painful type of swelling that occurs when a testicle becomes twisted, interrupting the blood supply to the testicles – it is a medical emergency  

Read more information about causes of testicular lumps and swellings

When should I seek medical help?

See your GP if you notice any lumps, swellings or changes to the testicles, as they should always be checked by a healthcare professional.

Testicular torsion is a medical emergency and will require urgent surgery within hours of it starting. 

Other types of lumps may not require treatment because they often do not cause any symptoms. Hydroceles in newborn babies often disappear on their own during the first year or two.

If a lump causes pain or discomfort, it may be possible to have it surgically removed.

Read more information about diagnosing testicular lumps and swellings and treating testicular lumps and swellings.

Who is affected?

Varicoceles are relatively common, affecting about one in seven men. They usually become noticeable after puberty (when the body matures sexually) because by this time the testicles are fully grown and the blood flow to the affected veins increases.

Hydroceles affect one or two in every 100 newborn male babies. They can also occur in older boys or men after an injury or infection.

Epididymal cysts can develop at any age, but are most common in middle-aged men. They affect up to a third of men.

Testicular torsion usually develops in boys aged 13-17, but can also occur in men in their 20s. It is an uncommon condition, and figures from the US suggest that it affects one in every 4,000 males every year.

Page last reviewed: 01/10/2012

Next review due: 01/10/2014

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