Scrotal masses have many underlying causes. Even painless scrotal masses should be evaluated promptly by a doctor.
Scrotal masses are abnormalities in the bag of skin hanging behind the penis (scrotum). The scrotum contains the testicles and related structures that produce, store and transport sperm and male sex hormones.
Scrotal masses might be an accumulation of fluids, the growth of abnormal tissue, or normal contents of the scrotum that have become swollen, inflamed or hardened.
Scrotal masses need to be examined by a doctor, even if you're not in pain or having other symptoms. Scrotal masses could be cancerous or caused by another condition that affects testicular function and health.
Self-examination and regular doctor exams of the scrotum are important for prompt recognition, diagnosis and treatment of scrotal masses.
Signs and symptoms of scrotal masses vary depending on the abnormality. Signs and symptoms might include:
If the cause of a scrotal mass is an infection, signs and symptoms also might include:
Seek emergency medical care if you develop sudden pain in your scrotum. Some conditions require prompt treatment to avoid permanent damage to a testicle.
See your doctor if you detect a lump in your scrotum, even if it's not painful or tender, or if you experience other symptoms of a scrotal mass.
Some scrotal masses are more common in children. See your doctor if your child experiences symptoms of a scrotal mass, if you have any concerns about the development of the genitals or if a testicle is “missing” — an undescended or retractile testicle, which might increase the risk of some scrotal masses later in life.
A number of disorders can result in a scrotal mass or an abnormality in the scrotum, including:
Testicular cancer. Testicular cancer is a tumor containing abnormal testicular tissue, which can usually be felt as a nontender lump in the scrotum.
Some men experience pain and swelling, but most tumors don't cause symptoms. See your doctor if you notice any new lump in your scrotum.
Epididymitis. This is inflammation of the epididymis, the comma-shaped structure above and behind the testicle that stores and transports sperm.
Epididymitis is often caused by a bacterial infection, including sexually transmitted bacterial infections, such as chlamydia. Less commonly, epididymitis is caused by a viral infection or an abnormal flow of urine into the epididymis.
Hydrocele. Hydrocele occurs when there is excess fluid between the layers of a sac that surrounds each testicle. A small amount of fluid in this space is normal, but the excess fluid of a hydrocele usually results in a painless swelling of the scrotum.
In infants, a hydrocele occurs usually because an opening between the abdomen and the scrotum hasn't properly sealed during development.
In adults, a hydrocele occurs usually because of an imbalance in the production or absorption of fluid, often as a result of injury or infection in the scrotum.
Varicocele. This is the enlargement of the veins within the scrotum that carry oxygen-depleted blood from each testicle and the epididymis. Varicocele is more common on the left side of the scrotum because of differences in how blood circulates from each side.
A varicocele might cause infertility.
Inguinal hernia. This is a condition in which a portion of the small intestine pushes through an opening or weak spot in the tissue separating the abdomen and groin.
In infants, an inguinal hernia usually occurs because the passageway from the abdomen to the scrotum has failed to close during development.
An inguinal hernia might appear as a mass in the scrotum or higher in the groin.
Testicular torsion. This is a twisting of the spermatic cord, the bundle of blood vessels, nerves and the tube that carries semen from the testicle to the penis.
This painful condition cuts off blood to the testicle and can result in the loss of the testicle if not promptly treated. The affected testicle might be sideways, enlarged and higher than normal.
Factors that increase the risk of a scrotal mass vary because of the various causes of scrotal abnormalities. Significant risk factors include:
An undescended testicle doesn't leave the abdomen and enter the scrotum during fetal development or early infancy. A retractile testicle descends into the scrotum, but retreats to the abdomen. Either might increase the risk of:
Abnormalities of the testicles, penis or kidneys present at birth (congenital) might increase the risk of a scrotal mass and testicular cancer later in life.
If you have had cancer in one testicle, you're at increased risk of cancer affecting the other testicle. Having a father or brother who has had testicular cancer also increases your risk.
Not all scrotal masses result in long-term complications. However, any mass that affects the health or function of the testicle can lead to:
Your doctor will rely on a number of factors to diagnose a scrotal mass. These may include:
Most scrotal masses require minimally invasive or no treatment, but some require medicine or more-serious procedures.
Scrotal masses caused by a bacterial infection, as is usually the case with epididymitis, are treated with antibiotics. Viral infections causing epididymitis or orchitis are usually treated with rest, ice and pain relief medication.
Benign scrotal masses might be left untreated or surgically removed, repaired, or drained. These treatment decisions depend on factors such as whether the scrotal mass:
A specialist in cancer treatment (oncologist) will recommend treatments based on whether the cancer is isolated to a testicle or has spread to other tissues in the body. Your age and overall health also are factors in choosing treatment options for testicular cancer.
In some cases radiation therapy also may be used. This type of therapy uses high-dose X-rays or other high-energy radiation to kill cancer cells that may remain after removal of the affected testicle.
Most cases of testicular cancer can be cured, but follow-up care is necessary to watch for possible recurrences.
Testicular self-exams might help you find a scrotal mass early, allowing you to get prompt medical care. If you perform this exam regularly, you'll understand what "normal" feels like and be better prepared to detect abnormality. To do a testicular self-exam, follow these steps:
If you find a lump or other abnormality, call your doctor as soon as possible.
If you're having pain, seek emergency care. If you detect a scrotal mass, you'll probably start by seeing your family doctor. You might be referred to a specialist in urinary tract and male genital disorders (urologist).
Preparing for your or your child's appointment with your doctor or a urologist will help you make the most of your time with the doctor.
Write down information to share with your doctor, including:
Questions about scrotal masses might include:
Don't hesitate to ask any other questions.
Your doctor is likely to ask you a number of questions, including:
December 24th, 2020