Most lumps in the testicles are harmless, but some can be a sign of a more serious medical condition. Regular self-exams can help spot the early signs of testicular cancer.
The majority of lumps found in the testicle are not caused by cancer. Testicle lumps are more commonly caused by fluid collecting, an infection, or swelling of skin or veins.
However, it is not possible to diagnose the cause of a lump at home. A person should always seek medical advice.
In this article, we look at the possible causes of a testicle lump, self-examination, and when to see a doctor. We also cover diagnosis and treatment.
Lumps and swellings inside the testicles, or on the skin around them, can have a range of causes, including:
A cyst is a fluid-filled sac that can feel like a small, hard lump when touched. Cysts can develop almost anywhere on the body and are usually harmless.
A varicocele is a lumpy area caused by swollen veins in the testicles. This is similar to a varicose vein forming in a person's leg. It is not clear what causes a varicocele.
Fluid collecting around a testicle can cause a swelling known as a hydrocele.
This often happens after an infection or injury to this area of the body. Hydroceles are usually painless. The swelling can affect one or both testicles.
Testicular torsion is a serious medical condition that needs immediate treatment. This can happen when the cord connected to the testicles twists and cuts off the blood supply.
People with testicular torsion usually experience severe pain, which may be followed by vomiting and testicular swelling.
Epididymitis is a condition that can cause the epididymis to become painful and swollen. The epididymis is a tube that sits behind each testicle and carries the sperm.
The swelling can feel like a lump. People with epididymitis may also experience pain, tenderness, and warmth in the skin around the testicles.
A lump or swelling can be one of the first symptoms of testicular cancer. Most tumors do not cause any pain.
The lump will usually form on the front or side of a testicle. It will often feel hard, and the entire testicle may feel firmer than usual. A lump can develop inside the testicle, or just under the skin. One testicle may become larger or swollen.
According to the American Cancer Society, testicular cancer is not common. Only around 1 in 263 men will get testicular cancer during their lifetime, and the risk of dying from it is about 1 in 5,000.
Understanding the body and being aware of any changes can be an essential part of managing health. Checking the testicles for any lumps or swelling and seeking medical advice if needed can make sure any issues are treated as quickly as possible.
It is best to do a self-exam when the body is warm, and a person is relaxed. This can make it easier to feel anything unusual.
How to complete a testicular self-exam:
- stand in front of a mirror
- look at the testicles for any swelling of the skin
- place the first two fingers of each hand under the testicle, with the thumbs on top of the testicle
- move each testicle between the fingers and thumbs gently to check for lumps
Examining the testicles monthly from puberty can help to find any medical problems early.
Anyone who finds a lump in their testicles should see a doctor as soon as possible. It is difficult for a person to tell whether a lump is cancerous or harmless without being examined by a doctor.
It can help if a person can think of any other symptoms they may have had. They may have had an infection, such as chlamydia, or an injury to the testicle. Sharing this information with a doctor can help them to make a diagnosis.
A doctor will need to examine the person's testicles. They may also need to do tests to find the cause of the lump.
The doctor will look at and feel the testicles. They may also shine a light through the skin to check for any possible fluid buildup.
A doctor may request an imaging scan, such as an ultrasound, to check the lump. An ultrasound uses sound waves to make a picture of the inside of the body.
If a person is not feeling any pain or discomfort, they may not require treatment. Anyone with a testicle lump should regularly check it at home to make sure that it does not get any bigger or change shape.
Cysts will usually go away on their own. If the cyst is painful, applying a warm washcloth can help reduce swelling. If a cyst becomes infected, a person may need medication to treat the infection.
Doctors can remove a cyst under local anesthetic. However, doctors do not usually recommend this as cysts are unlikely to cause health problems. A cyst can also come back in the same place.
People with a varicocele or hydrocele who are not experiencing any symptoms are unlikely to need treatment. The fluid sac where a hydrocele has formed can be repaired, or sometimes, removed.
Someone with a varicocele might also consider surgery. The procedure involves stopping the blood flow to the swollen veins, which allows the veins to shrink.
Doctors usually treat epididymitis with antibiotics for the underlying infection. A person can take pain relieving medication or apply a cold pack wrapped in fabric to the testicles to help with pain and swelling.
A person will need treatment if a lump in the testicle is found to be cancerous. Treatment will be different depending on the stage of the cancer.
Doctors use radiation therapy and chemotherapy to kill cancer cells or stop them from growing. A person may need surgery to remove a lump from the testicle. Sometimes, more than one treatment might be necessary.
It may be necessary for a doctor to remove part or all of the testicle to diagnose cancer and prevent it from spreading. The testicle can often be replaced with an implant. This can affect fertility, so a person may be given the opportunity to save and store sperm before surgery.
There are several possible causes for a lump in the testicle, most of which are harmless. People who are not experiencing any pain or discomfort may not require any treatment.
Rarely, the lump may be a sign of testicular cancer. Doctors may need to treat this with a combination of radiation therapy, chemotherapy, and surgery.
Anyone who finds a lump in their testicles should always see a doctor. Regularly checking the testicles for lumps can help spot the early signs of testicular cancer.