Medical exams, whether they're for school, a sport, or camp, are usually pretty straightforward. Many parts of the exam make sense to most guys: The scale is used to weigh you, the stethoscope is used to listen to your heartbeat.
But why does the doctor need to touch and feel your testicles? Isn't there a better, less embarrassing way to check things out?
When you are healthy and going for a physical exam, the doctor is interested in finding out specific things about your body and your health. He or she will check your height and weight, take your temperature, and take your blood pressure. The doctor will listen to your heart and lungs and will probably examine your eyes, ears, nose, and throat, and may also test your reflexes by tapping your knees and ankles. For all these parts of the exam, the doctor relies on tools and equipment to get the information that's needed.
However, for other parts of your body, the doctor's sense of touch and training are the key to knowing how things should feel. During the physical, the doctor will touch your belly to feel for any problems with your liver or spleen. He or she may also feel the lymph nodes in your neck, armpits, and groin to detect if there is any swelling, which can indicate an infection or other problem.
And your doctor will also need to feel your testicles and the area around them to be sure they're developing properly and there are no problems. Two possible problems that can affect teen guys are hernias and — rarely — testicular cancer.
A hernia can occur when a part of the intestine pushes out from the abdomen and into the groin or scrotum (the sac of skin that the testicles hang in). Some people believe that this can only happen when a person lifts something heavy, but usually this isn't the case. Most hernias occur because of a weakness in the abdominal wall that the person was born with. If a piece of intestine becomes trapped in the scrotum, it can cut off the blood supply to the intestine and cause serious problems if the situation isn't quickly corrected.
A doctor is able to feel for a hernia by using his or her fingers to examine the area around the groin and testicles. The doctor may ask you to cough while pressing on or feeling the area. Sometimes, the hernia causes a bulge that the doctor can detect; if this happens, surgery almost always repairs the hernia completely.
Testicular cancer is unusual in teen guys, but it can happen. Testicular cancer is the most common cancer in guys aged 20 to 34, though — a good reason to get in the habit of regular testicular exams.
Your doctor should examine your testicles at least once a year. He or she will grasp one testicle at a time, rolling it gently between the thumb and first finger to feel for lumps. The doctor will also feel if the testicle is hardened or enlarged.
The doctor will teach you how to do testicular self-exams. Examine yourself at least once a month for any lumps or bumps on your testicles. Knowing how your testicles feel when they're healthy will help you know when something feels different down there. Noticing any new testicular lumps or bumps as soon as possible gives the best chances for survival and total cure if it turns out to be cancer.
Even though it might feel weird to have a doctor checking out your testicles, it's no big deal to him or her. Sometimes when a doctor is examining that area, you might get an erection — this is something you can't control. It's a normal reaction that happens frequently during genital exams on guys. If it happens, it won't upset or bother the doctor, so there's no need to feel embarrassed.
Reviewed by: T. Ernesto Figueroa, MD
Date reviewed: June 2012
|Planned Parenthood Info for Teens This site from the Planned Parenthood Federation of America has information on relationships and sexual health for teens.|
|American Cancer Society The American Cancer Society is the nationwide community-based voluntary health organization dedicated to preventing cancer, saving lives and diminishing suffering from cancer through research, education, advocacy, and service. Call:(800) ACS-2345|
|Go Ask Alice! Go Ask Alice! is Columbia University's health question and answer service. It offers open and frank discussions of sensitive topics.|
|Gynecomastia Puberty can be confusing, especially when unexpected changes occur. In this article, you'll learn what gynecomastia is and why it happens.|
|Why Does the Doctor Have to Examine My Testicles? Find out what the experts have to say.|
|Hernias A hernia is an opening or weakness in the wall of a muscle, tissue, or membrane that normally holds an organ in place. Learning to prevent hernias isn't hard to do - check out these tips.|
|Is It Normal to Get Erections? If you've ever had an erection in an embarrassing situation, you've probably asked yourself this question. But erections are a perfectly normal function of the male body, especially in guys who are going through puberty.|
|About Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs) You've probably heard lots of discouraging news about sexually transmitted diseases. The good news is that STDs can be prevented. Find out how to protect yourself.|
|Types of Cancer Teens Get While cancer is rare in teens, some types are more likely to affect young people. Learn about these types of cancer, including warning signs, symptoms, and treatments.|
|Is My Penis Normal? Just about every guy wonders about the size of his penis at one time or another.|
|Testicular Injuries Serious testicular injuries are relatively uncommon, but testicular injury can be painful. Read this to find out what steps you can take to protect yourself from injury.|
|How to Perform a Testicular Self-Examination The testicular self-examination (TSE) is an easy way for guys to check their own testicles to make sure there aren't any unusual lumps or bumps - which are usually the first sign of testicular cancer.|
|What Should I Do About Lumps in My Testicles? Find out what the experts have to say.|
|Varicocele A varicocele is an enlargement of the veins in the scrotum. Although there is no way to prevent a varicocele, it usually needs no special treatment.|
|Male Reproductive System What makes up a guy's reproductive system and how does it develop? Can anything go wrong? Find the answers to these questions and more in this article.|
What to expect when coming to Akron Children's
For healthcare providers and nurses
Residency & Fellowships, Medical Students, Nursing and Allied Health
For prospective employees and career-seekers
Our online community that provides inspirational stories and helpful information.