How to check your balls

October 14, 2022

Regular self-examination could mean you avoid a big ball ache in the long run. Professor Geoff Hackett explains what you need to know and how to check your balls.

Quick Facts

  • Most men who develop testicular cancer have no risk factors at all.
  •  Lumps, bumps and changes in the shape of your balls shouldn’t be ignored.
  • Good news is, if it is testicular cancer, overall survival rate is super-high at 98 percent.
  • Your lifetime risk for developing testicular cancer is about one in 25.

It might be one of the less common forms of cancer, but testicular cancer (TC) is still pretty scary — especially because, compared to other types of cancers, it’s more likely to strike at a young age.

The most common cancer in men under 40, nearly 80 percent of all testicular cancers occur in men 44 or younger.

Watch Dr Richard Viney showing you how in the video below:

Why checking could save your life

But the good news is, as far as cancers go, it’s extremely treatable. For every 100 men diagnosed with TC, 96 are cured.

Rates of TC have risen by 11 per cent over the last decade, but death rates have fallen thanks to the introduction of platinum-based chemotherapy in the 1980s.

Like a lot of cancers, TC can be successfully treated with surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy.

Still, early diagnosis is key.

Overall survival is excellent, with a 98 per cent and 10-year survival rate in England and Wales.

All men diagnosed with early-stage 1 disease will survive for five years or more – compared to 80 per cent of those diagnosed with advanced disease.

This is not the time to be the strong, silent type. To avoid a whole heap of unnecessary stress or illness, it’s really important you get into the habit of self examination and then get your doctor to check anything unusual – as soon as possible.

To know yourself, is to love yourself

The biggest warning bell, as most of us know, is a lump on a testicle. But while you might be pretty sure nobody knows your balls as well as you do, there’s a knack to checking yourself out.

The best place to give your testicles a once-over is in the shower.

That’s because the warmth will relax your scrotum and make it easier for you to feel any abnormalities.

Start at the top of your left testicle. Hold it between your thumb and fingers of both hands, and gently roll it between your fingers as you move down. Repeat on the right side.

Be on the lookout for any hard lumps, smooth or rounded bumps, or unusual changes in the size, shape, and consistency of your testicle.

What to look for

A normal testicle should feel smooth and firm, but not hard. Pay attention to – and report to your doctor – any of the following:

  • Lumps or swellings
  • One testicle that has become bigger or any other differences between your testicles. It’s normal for the testicles to be slightly different in size. It’s also normal for one to hang lower than the other but look out for a significant difference in size.
  • Aching or discomfort in your testicles that doesn’t go away.
  • A change in the shape of your testicles; in the way your testicles feel
  • Anything unusual or worrying

If you’re unsure, talk to your Peppy practitioner about what you’ve found.

If you’ve found something you don’t like the look of – don’t switch on the footie, go to the gym or head to the pub. Get on the phone and book an appointment with your GP.

All you’ll need to do is drop your trousers, whilst they have a look at and feel your testicles and maybe shine a torch through the bag of skin containing them (scrotum) to check for a build-up of fluid.

Once they’re done they may refer you for an ultrasound scan to investigate further.

If you’re nervous about seeing your GP, your Peppy practitioner can talk you through the process.

And remember, it’s highly likely that it isn’t cancer, but in case it is, having it treated early can save your life (do we need to say this again?). In the meantime, here’s a rundown of the more common non-cancerous conditions that could be going on:

Lumps and bumps

TC will typically present as a hard, painless lump – but most lumps aren’t life-threatening or cancerous.

It’s common to get harmless cysts or benign lumps in the epididymis. This is the tube in your balls that carries unused sperm and fluid, and feels like a soft, coiled mass behind the top of each testicle.

Spermatocele cysts are tiny, firm lumps in the scrotum that are pain-free, harmless and can’t become cancerous.

But don’t you decide, let the doctor do that.

If you’re shy, remember, he or she will have felt hundreds of other pairs in their working life. And nothing is more embarrassing than being told you have advanced cancer because you didn’t see your doc.

Swollen veins in the testicles (varicocele) 

These can feel like a bag of worms. They’re more common on the left side and may feel like there’s an uncomfortable heaviness in one side of your scrotum.

Some people describe a dull ache as the day wears on.


Treatment for a lump or swelling depends on the cause. You might not even need treatment if it doesn’t cause any problems and is not getting worse.

For swollen veins, surgery is usually recommended, if the varicocele are causing significant discomfort or on occasions affecting your fertility.

Find out more about Peppy Men here.


Men's Health