Penile Cancer: Frequently Asked Questions
Cancer that starts in cells in the penis is called penile cancer. Penile cancer is rare in the U.S. Most penile cancer (about 95%) is squamous cell carcinoma. This means the cancer begins in the flat skin cells (squamous cells) of the penis. Most squamous cell penile cancers begin on the foreskin or on the tip of the penis (glans). Squamous cell penile cancer grows slowly. It can usually be cured if it is found early. The following information here should help you spot this tumor long before it becomes life-threatening.
What Are The Symptoms Of Penile Cancer?
Many men will have symptoms in the early stages of penile cancer. The most common symptoms are changes in color or thickness of the skin, unusual discharge, ulcer or sore, and swelling at the end of the penis. A man with any skin changes or sores around the penis should see a healthcare provider.
What Causes Penile Cancer?
Penile tumors are thought to be caused by body fluids that get trapped in the foreskin. If they aren’t washed away on a routine basis, they can have cancer-causing effects. Older men and smokers are more likely to get penile cancer. Conditions such as AIDS can also lead to penile cancer.
Can Penile Cancer Be Prevented?
Although there is no definitive way to prevent penile cancer, there are some risk factors a man can avoid. Here are just a few ways to help prevent penile cancer:
- Avoid HPV infection by practicing safe sex
- Quit smoking, or never start
- Practice good personal hygiene habits, especially if you are uncircumcised
How Is Penile Cancer Diagnosed?
Healthcare providers will examine your penis, testicles, groin, and abdomen. If they see anything unusual they will take a sample of tissue called a biopsy. From this biopsy they will be able to determine whether or not you have penile cancer.
What Are The Different Types Of Penile Cancer?
The main types of penile cancer include:
- Squamous cell carcinomas – These develop in the small, flat skin cells known as squamous cells. They can occur anywhere in the skin of the penis, but are most common in the foreskin or the head (glans) of the organ. They are typically slow growing, and account for more than 95% of all penile cancers.
- Melanomas – These develop in the cells that give the skin its pigment. These cancers are less common than squamous cell carcinomas, but are typically very quick to spread.
- Basal cell carcinomas – These develop in the cells in the deepest layer of the skin. They are slow growing and highly unlikely to spread.
- Adenocarcinomas – These develop in the cells of the sweat glands. Some are categorized as a form of extramammary Paget’s disease.
- Sarcomas – These develop in the blood vessels or connective tissues, such as the muscles, fat and cartilage. These tend to grow very quickly if left untreated.
How Is Penile Cancer Treated?
Whether treatment will be done by use of chemotherapy creams or by laser surgery depends on the size of the area that is affected. If surgery is done, then a skin graft must be done. Severe penile cancer is treated by use of surgery, radiotherapy or chemotherapy. If treatment results into any physical changes around the penis, then a reconstructive surgery will be required.