The real idea behind the testicular self-examination is to establish a good degree of familiarity with your testes. It's important to know your scrotum well enough to notice any changes that seem suspicious. Here are a few dependable signs that suggest something shady is going down:

  • Hard lumps. Rock-hard lumps on the testicles can vary in size from a pea to a golf ball. These abnormal lumps will often feel as hard as bone and will almost always be present on only one testicle. It's very common for Joe Sixpack to mistake a harmless, congenital cyst for a malignancy; that's because it's impossible to tell the difference between the two during a TSE. It's best to let your doctor decide by using more sophisticated tests (See Step 4).

  • Tenderness or general discomfort. A tender testis is rarely a sign of cancer, but anytime your testicles hurt without being bumped, it's a good idea to have them checked out by a doctor. Cancer-related testicular pain is usually associated with some bleeding, but an overly sensitive testicle could also suggest an inguinal hernia or epididymitis, an infection of the sperm-storing tube attached to the testicle. Either problem is treatable by a physician.

  • Hardness in the entire testicle. This is usually the result of a hydrocele, a cystic mass in the testicle. A leaky hernia, prior trauma or infection could cause one of these fluid-filled sacs to show up where you'd like it the least, but fear not: Hydroceles are easily treatable, too.

  • Discharge from the penis. Though rarely an indication of cancer, a non-ejaculatory discharge from the penis during TSE could suggest a sexually transmitted disease (STD), in which case you should consult a physician-not to mention your lover.