Cancer of the Penis: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment

Penile cancer is a disease in which cancer cells grow in the tissues of the penis. It may begin as a blister on the foreskin, head or shaft of the penis, the gradually work its way inside the penile tissues. It may become a wart-like growth that discharges blood or foul-smelling liquid.

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Cancer of the penis can be cure if detected early.

Causes of Penile Cancer

The exact cause of penile cancer is not yet known by experts. However, they suspect not being circumcised may make it more likely for a male to get penile cancer. Also, bodily fluids can contribute to the growth of cancer cells if they get trapped in the foreskin and aren’t washed away. Scientists suggests men who are exposed to certain strains of HPV (human papillomavirus) may also be more likely to get cancer of the penis. Those mostly at risk are smokers, men over age 60, and in those who have a weak immune system.

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Symptoms of Penile Cancer

Changes in the penis skin are the most common symptom of penile cancer. They can appear on the foreskin of uncircumcised men, or on the penis tip (the glans) or shaft.

Warning signs of the disease can include:

  • A lump on penis
  • Changes in thickness or color of skin on the penis
  • Smelly discharge underneath the foreskin
  • Swelling at the end of the penis
  • A rash that won’t go away.
  • Growths on the penis that look bluish-brown
  • A sore on the penis, which may be bleeding
  • Lumps under the skin in the groin area

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Most men with these symptoms don’t have penile cancer. Instead, it’s an infection or an allergic reaction. However, it’s important to see a doctor.


Your doctor will perform a physical exam, discuss your symptoms, and may recommend other tests, such as:

A biopsy: Where a small sample of tissue is taken from a skin lesion on the penis. Lab tests will check it for cancer cells.

Imaging tests, like X-rays, CT scans, ultrasounds, and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). These look inside your body for tumors.

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If your cancer is in the early stages, your treatment may include:

  • Lasers to cut and destroy areas that contain cancer
  • Cryotherapy, a procedure that uses an extremely cold liquid to freeze and destroy tissue that contains cancer
  • Circumcision, which is surgery to remove the foreskin
  • Mohs surgery, in which doctors remove affected skin, one layer at a time, until they reach normal, healthy tissue
  • A medicine that goes on your skin as a cream

If your cancer is advanced or has a high risk of spreading, treatment may include:

  • Surgery to remove some or all of your inguinal lymph nodes if your cancer has spread to them
  • Radiation and/or chemotherapy to rid your body of cancer cells
  • A penectomy, which is surgery to remove some or all of your penis

Most treatments for early-stage penile cancer will not affect your ability to have sex. However, advanced treatment like chemotherapy and radiation may affect you sexually. Discuss with your doctor about possible side effects and best treatment option for you.


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