Grab Your Gonads

Have you been playing with your balls lately? Good! Getting to know your testicles – and checking regularly for changes – might just save your life.

Whether you call them your bollocks, your chicken tenders, your jizz-berries or deez nuts, you’re probably pretty attached to your testicles! Not only do they serve as the body’s main source of male hormones and play a major role in reproduction, they can also be a favourite erogenous zone for many men. While testicular cancer isn’t as common as other forms of cancer (such as prostate cancer), it is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in young men in New Zealand.
Early detection is key, and regular self-examinations will only take around 5-minutes each month. Here’s what you need to know about testicular cancer, common symptoms and how to perform a Testicular Self-Exam (TSE) at home.

We’re stating the obvious here, but cancer that develops in a testicle is called testicular cancer. It’s not common, accounting for around one-percent of all male tumours

worldwide, however it is the most common cancer to be diagnosed in men aged 15 to 39. Fortunately, testicular cancer is highly treatable, even when cancer has spread beyond the testicle. Depending on the type and stage of testicular cancer, men affected may receive one of several treatments, or a combination, which average a 95% chance of survival.

Testicular cancer is usually isolated to a single testicle.

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In New Zealand there are higher rates of testicular cancer in Maori men than in European, Asian or Pasifika men. However, the reasons for this are not known. Factors that may increase your risk of testicular cancer include:

Men who have a testicle that never descended are at greater risk of testicular cancer than are men whose testicles descended normally. The risk remains elevated even if the testicle has been surgically relocated to the scrotum.

Conditions that cause testicles to develop abnormally, such as Klinefelter syndrome, may increase the risk of testicular cancer.

Men are more likely to have an increased risk of testicular cancer if a close family member has also had testicular cancer.

Testicular cancer can occur at any age; however it is most common among teens and younger men, particularly those between ages 15 – 39.

Testicular cancer can affect men of all ethnicities, however in New Zealand there are higher rates of testicular cancer in Maori men than in European, Asian or Pasifika men.

Most testicular cancers are found by men themselves, by accident or while doing a TSE. Men who examine themselves regularly become familiar with the way their testicles normally feel. Any changes in the way they feel from month-to-month should be checked by a doctor
Symptoms of testicular cancer include:

  • A lump or enlargement in either testicle
  • A feeling of heaviness in the scrotum
  • A dull ache in the abdomen or groin
  • A sudden collection of fluid in the scrotum
  • Pain or discomfort in a testicle or the scrotum
  • Enlargement or tenderness of the breast tissue
  • Back pain


Self-examination is vital for early detection, so make a date with yourself to give your bo-jangles a bit of a once-over every month. No-one knows your nutsack as well as you do, so don’t assume your partner will pick up on changes when you’re getting busy between the sheets.
Remember – it’s completely normal for one testicle to be bigger, or hang lower, than the other. Because testicular cancer is usually isolated to a single testicle, comparison of your testicle with the other can be helpful. Your focus should be noticing any changes from the previous month.

Here’s how to examine yourself beyond your usual scratching and readjusting.

During, or immediately after, a hot shower or bath is the best time to check your balls. The scrotum (the skin that covers the testicles) is most relaxed during this time, which makes it easier to feel your balls (one at a time) for lumps and bumps.

Anyone who’s felt a ballbag knows testicles tend to move around a bit, so start by gently gripping the top of the scrotum, with your thumb on top and your fingers underneath. Pinch (gently!) so the testicle stays put and won’t move during the exam.

Note that you should feel the spermatic cord, which connects the testicle to the rest of your body, between your fingers.

With your free hand, glide your thumb and fingers along both sides of the testicle, from top to bottom, feeling for any lumps, bumps or irregularities, then glide your fingers over the front and back of the testicle.
On the back at the top, you should feel the epididymis – a coiled tube that carries sperm – which can easily be mistaken for an unusual mass. This will feel softer and bumpier than the testicle it’s attached to.

Lumps may be as small as a grain of rice or a pea. If you do happen to notice something that wasn’t there the month before, make an appointment with your GP as soon as possible. You should also have your GP take a gander if you notice any swelling, changes in the size or colour of a testicle, or if you experience any pain or achy areas in your groin.

Testicular cancer is almost always curable if it is caught and treated early. Lumps or swelling may not be cancer, but they should be checked by your doctor as soon as possible.

Questions or Concerns
If you have a family history of testicular cancer, you have an increased risk due to abnormal testicle development, or you’d simple like more information, make an appointment to talk testes with your doctor. They’ve seen hundreds – if not thousands – of balls over the course of their career, and a quick conversation and exam could save your life.

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