What is a testicular lump?
lump is an abnormal mass that can form in your testicles. The testicles, or testes, are egg-shaped
male reproductive organs that hang below the penis in a sac called the scrotum. Their primary function is to
produce sperm and a hormone called testosterone.
A testicular mass, or lump, is a fairly common condition
that can have many different causes. Testicular lumps can occur in men, teenage
boys, or younger children. They may be located in one or both of your testicles.
Testicular lumps are signs of problems with your testicles. They may be caused
by an injury, but they can also indicate a serious underlying medical problem.
Not all lumps indicate the presence of testicular cancer. Most
lumps are caused by benign, or noncancerous, conditions. These usually require
no treatment. Still, your doctor should examine any changes in your testicles,
especially lumps or swelling. There are no studies that show benefits or harm
to clinical or personal testicular exams. Whether or not men should do monthly
testicle self-examinations is a controversial issue. However, if you happen to
notice anything unusual, make an appointment with your doctor for a testicular
exam. They can treat you early for potential problems.
Symptoms of a testicular lump
Nearly all testicular lumps cause noticeable swelling and
changes in the texture of your testicle. Other symptoms vary, depending on the
underlying cause of your testicular lump:
- A varicocele rarely causes symptoms.
If it does cause symptoms, the affected testicle may feel heavier than the
other testicle or the lump may feel like a small sac of worms.
- A hydrocele is painless in infants,
but it can cause a feeling of abdominal pressure in older boys and men. It also
causes visible swelling of the testicles.
- Epididymal cysts are also generally
painless. In some men, one testicle may feel heavier than normal.
- An infection may cause pain, swelling, or
tenderness in one or both of your testicles. It can also cause fever, nausea,
Though it can occur spontaneously, testicular torsion is a
condition that’s typically caused by a scrotal injury. It’s a medical
emergency. It can be extremely painful and may involve the following symptoms:
- a fever
- frequent urination
- abdominal pain
- swelling of your scrotum
- unusual positioning of a testicle, which may be
higher than normal or oddly angled
A lump caused by testicular cancer can produce the following
- a dull ache in your abdomen or groin
- swelling or tenderness in your breasts
- heaviness in your scrotum
- a sudden collection of fluid in your scrotum
Types and causes of testicular lumps
There are multiple possible causes of testicular lumps,
including injury, birth defects, infection and other factors.
This type of testicular lump is the most common type. It
occurs in about one in every seven men, according to Weill
Cornell Medical College. Enlarged veins in your testicles cause varicocele
lumps. They become more noticeable after puberty, which is when blood flow
increases in your fully developed testicles.
A buildup of fluid in your testicles causes a hydrocele. The
Clinic estimates that this type of testicular lump occurs in one to two out
of every 100 newborn males. Premature babies have a higher risk of developing a
An epididymal cyst occurs when the long, coiled tube behind your
testicles called the epididymis becomes filled with fluid and can’t drain. If
it contains sperm, it’s known as a spermatocele. This form of testicular
lump is very common. It most often resolves on its own.
Testicular torsion occurs when your testicles become
twisted, typically due to an injury or accident. This condition most often
occurs in boys between the ages of 13 and 17 years old, but it can affect men
of all ages. This is a medical emergency that requires urgent investigation and
Epididymitis and orchitis
Your epididymis is the structure above your testicle that
stores sperm. Epididymitis is an inflammation of your epididymis. A bacterial
infection often causes it. This includes some sexually transmitted infections (STI),
such as gonorrhea or chlamydia.
An infection also causes orchitis, which is an inflammation
of your testicle. Bacteria or the mumps virus can cause the infection.
A hernia occurs when part of your bowel pokes through your
groin. This can cause your scrotum to become enlarged.
Some lumps indicate the growth of testicular cancer. Only a
doctor can determine if a lump is cancerous. Testicular cancer isn’t common
overall, but it’s the most
common type of cancer among American men between the ages of 15 and 34.
Diagnosing testicular lumps
Your doctor can properly diagnose the cause of a testicular
lump. Make an appointment with your doctor if you notice a lump during a
self-exam or you’re experiencing the symptoms described above. If you’re
experiencing symptoms of testicular torsion after an injury, go to an emergency
room immediately. If it’s left untreated, testicular torsion can cause testicle
death and infertility.
Before your appointment, write down any symptoms you’re
experiencing and how long you’ve felt them. Tell your doctor if you’ve had any
injuries recently. You should also be prepared to talk about your sexual
Your doctor will put on gloves and physically examine your
testicles to note their size and positioning and to check for swelling and
tenderness. Most testicular lumps can be diagnosed during a physical
examination. However, your doctor may order other tests to confirm the
These tests may include:
- an ultrasound,
which uses sound waves to create an image of your testicles, scrotum, and
- a blood
test in which a sample of your blood is tested for the presence of tumor
cells, infections, or other signs of problems
- an STI
screening in which a sample
of fluid is collected from your penis with a swab and analyzed in a laboratory
for gonorrhea and chlamydia
- a biopsy,
in which a small tissue sample is removed from your testicle with specialized
equipment and sent to a laboratory for testing
Treatment for testicular lumps
Your treatment plan will vary, depending on the cause of
your testicular lump.
Pain from a varicocele usually subsides
without treatment. However, your doctor may prescribe pain medication or advise
you to use over-the-counter pain relievers. In cases of recurring episodes of
discomfort, you may need surgery to reduce the congestion in your veins. The
surgery may involve tying off the affected veins or diverting blood flow to
those veins through other methods. This causes blood to bypass those veins,
which eliminates the swelling.
Treatment for a hydrocele lump may also involve surgery, but it most often clears up
on its own by age 2. The surgery involves making a small incision in the
scrotum to drain excess fluid.
An epididymal cyst doesn’t
require treatment unless it causes pain or discomfort. You may need surgery.
During this procedure, your surgeon will remove the cyst and seal your scrotum
with stitches that usually dissolve within 10 days.
Testicular torsion requires immediate surgery to
untwist your testicle and restore blood flow. Your testicle can die if you
don’t get treatment for the torsion within six hours, warns the American
Cancer Society. If your testicle dies, your doctor will have to remove it
Epididymitis and orchitis
Your doctor can treat infections in your epididymis or
testicles with antibiotics if bacteria are the cause. In the case of an STI,
your partner may also need to be treated.
A hernia is often treated with surgery. Your doctor may
refer you to a hernia specialist for treatment.
Testicular cancer is
treated using surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, and other methods. Your
specific course of treatment will depend on how early your cancer is detected
and other factors. Surgical removal of your testicle may help stop the cancer
from spreading to other parts of your body.
What is the outlook?
Your outlook will depend on the underlying cause of your
Most cases of testicular lumps aren’t serious or cancerous. Testicular
cancer is rare. It’s also highly treatable, and it’s curable if you find it early.
Since it’s difficult to figure out the cause of a testicular
lump based on your symptoms alone, it’s important to visit a doctor if you
notice any changes. Make an appointment with your doctor if you notice any lumps,
swelling, or pain in your testicles. Regular testicular self-exams can help you
find these changes early.