There are very few physical sensations that match the thunderous pain and awesome power of a swift kick to the testes. Everything seems to go in slow motion as you double over in agony… and then the gut-wrenching throb sets in. If you've ever discovered a new pothole with your ten-speed, you know exactly what we're talking about: Pain with a capital "YEOUCH!"

Since the testes are among the most sensitive (and enjoyable) parts of a man's body, it should hardly be surprising that few men are inclined to do a little exploring "down under." Sadly, most men are not aware of the high incidence of testicular cancer and other troubles that originate in the scrotal sac - dangers that are much easier to cure if caught early on. To do so, all men should learn how to perform a proper Testicular Self-Examination (TSE) - it could save your scrotum. Just ask celebrity testicular cancer survivors like Tom Green, Scott Hamilton and Richard Belzer. Performing the exam is well worth your while… and not as traumatizing as you think.


The Testicular Self-Exam is a risk-free, pain-free way to check your testes for potential cancers and other problems. It's really the first line of defense against cancer because testicular cancer comes with virtually no obvious symptoms or pain. No fever. No deep, booming voice from your crotch. Not even your lover would notice (though a popular women's magazine just published a "How-to-check-his-balls-without-him-knowing" column, so don't freak out if your girlfriend asks you for a mid-coital cough). A monthly testicular self-exam is the best - if not the only - way to find out if your boys are in good shape.

That said, the TSE should not be considered a substitute for a clinical examination conducted by an experienced physician: A doctor's diagnosis is almost always going to be better than yours. The TSE functions more like a warning light on your body's dashboard than some sort of at-home diagnostic tool for cancer. If the warning light goes off, then it's time to make a doctor's appointment; that's the only thing this test will tell you. (We knew you guys would like the car analogy.)

A word on testicular cancer

The main purpose of the TSE is to familiarize yourself with your body when it's healthy so you'll be able to recognize it immediately when something unusual is going on. Most testicular tumors (called seminomas) occur in the cells responsible for sperm production. As cancers go, these tumors grow pretty quickly; an untreated seminoma could double in size in under a month. So needless to say, you can't waste time being squeamish about squeezing the Charmin, because time is really of the essence.

Indeed, by the time they're discovered, nearly half of all testicular malignancies will have spread to other parts of the body, like the abdomen or lungs. And while cancer at that stage is still often curable, we bet our left testicle that you'd like to avoid all that by discovering abnormalities as early as possible. What the TSE will do for you is lower your chances of having to undergo the often painful and draining treatments associated with more advanced cancers (such as surgery, chemotherapy and radiation). Detecting a testicular cancer early on typically allows the physician to prescribe a less trying therapy.

Statistics about testicular cancer

All in all, the numbers about testicular cancer aren't nearly as scary as one might think. Take a look:

  • Testicular cancer will kill about 300 men this year.

  • Roughly 6,900 men will develop a testicular malignancy this year. That's only about 0.3% of the projected readership of Maxim in 2000.

  • According to the National Cancer Institute, testicular cancer is most common among younger men. In fact, it is the most common form of cancer developed by men between the ages of 20 and 35.

  • Like we said before, catch it early, and you're pretty much in the clear. Testicular cancer is one of the most curable breeds out there. And although nearly half of all cases have spread to other parts of the body by the time they're discovered, the cancer is still often treatable in its later stages. But the danger of spreading is why you have to catch it early on.

Risk Factors

The research on predisposing factors for testicular cancer is rather thin, but there are a few variables that might change your odds of developing a malignancy, such as age, ethnicity, and personal and family histories.

Being Young. Believe it or not, the older you are, the less likely it is that you'll develop a testicular malignancy. Call it a trade-off for having to worry about prostate or colon cancer, but men over 40 are pretty much off the hook.

Being White. Caucasians have a 4.5 times greater incidence of testicular cancer than African Americans. White men may not be able to jump, but they'd better learn how to perform a TSE.

Being Born Unlucky. Guys who had developmental problems in their youth, such as an undescended testicle or an infection resulting in testicular atrophy, are also more likely to develop testicular cancer than your average Joe.

Being Related. If you're dad had testicular cancer, there is some evidence that you're more likely to develop a tumor, too. Here's where it gets weird: The papers say that you're at an increased risk for cancer in the opposite testicle. In other words, if pop had a malignancy in his right testicle, you'll want to keep tabs on your left one.

Being John Malkovich. We're just kidding, John. But you might one to perform one anyway.