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Clinical Testicular Exam

A clinical testicular exam is a complete physical exam of the groin and the genitals, which are the penis, scrotum and testicles. Your doctor will feel the organs and check them for lumps, swelling, shrinking and other signs of a problem.

A genital exam is an important part of a routine physical exam for every teenage boy and man. Baby boys should also have their genitals checked for problems they were born with, such as an undescended testicle. An undescended testicle is more common in premature babies than in full-term babies.

Testicular cancer is rare, but it is the most common cancer in men younger than age 35. It often appears as a painless lump or swollen testicle. In the early stages of the cancer, the lump may be about the size of a pea. A self-exam can help find testicular cancer at an early stage. In many cases, this cancer is found by the man himself or by his sex partner. The chance of cure is very high when this cancer is found early and treated right away.

Why is a testicular exam done?

This exam can help find the causes of symptoms like pain, inflammation, swelling, or lumps in the testicles. It can also look for problems such as an absent or undescended testicle.

How is a testicular exam done?

The exam may be done first while you are lying down. Then it may be done again while you are standing. Your doctor will check your belly, your groin, and your penis, scrotum, and testicles. The doctor will feel the scrotum and both testicles to check their size, weight, and texture. The doctor will also look for signs of swelling or lumps. The doctor will note if a testicle is missing or if the testicles are shrinking.

If a lump is found in a testicle, the doctor will place a strong light behind the testicle. This is to see whether light can pass through it.

  • Light will not pass through a tumor. Also, a testicle with a tumor generally looks heavier than a normal testicle.
  • Light will pass through a mass or swelling caused by a hydrocele. A hydrocele is a buildup of fluid. It feels like water in a thin plastic bag.

The other testicle will be felt and checked too, to make sure it does not have any lumps, masses, or other problems.

Your doctor will also check the lymph nodes in your groin and your inner thigh for swelling.

How does having a testicular exam feel?

An exam done by your doctor may cause mild discomfort if your testicles are tender or swollen. And anytime the genital area is touched, there is a chance your body will react. So you may have an erection. This is normal, and your doctor knows this. You do not need to feel embarrassed.

A self-exam does not cause pain or discomfort unless a testicle is swollen or tender. A lump that is cancer usually feels firm. But it probably will not be tender or painful when pressed.

How do you prepare for a testicular exam?

You do not need to do anything special to prepare for an exam done by your doctor. But for comfort, you may want to empty your bladder ahead of time. You will be asked to undress and put on a hospital gown.