Penile cancer is a disease in which malignant (cancer) cells form in the tissues of the penis. It is usually rare and a slow growing cancer if caught early before further spreading. The chances of survival are high and around 75% of men diagnosed with penile cancer will survive the disease. Unfortunately, most men tend to ignore potential penile cancer symptoms for some time, which leads to a subsequent delay in diagnosis. Penile cancer is usually found on the glands or foreskin of the penis but can also occur on the shaft of the penis. Almost all penile cancers begin in the skin of the penis.
Signs & Symptoms
Signs and symptoms of penile cancer include the following listed below. It is however, important to note that there are also several non-cancerous conditions that can affect the penis and initially cause similar appearances.
- A growth or ulcer on the penis, especially on the glands or foreskin.
- Changes in the color of the penis.
- Skin thickening on the penis.
- Persistent discharge with foul odor beneath the foreskin.
- Blood coming from the tip of the penis or under the foreskin.
- Unexplained pain in the shaft or tip of the penis.
- Irregular or growing bluish-brown flat lesions or marks beneath the foreskin or on the body of the penis.
- Reddish, velvety rash beneath the foreskin.
- Small, crusty bumps beneath the foreskin.
- Irregular swelling at the end of the penis.
- Any of the above symptoms with unexplained lumps in the groin due to enlarged lymph nodes
Diagnosis & Treatment
Prognosis and treatment options depend on the stage of the cancer, the location and size of the tumor, and whether the cancer has just been diagnosed or has recurred. A biopsy may be taken to determine if you have penile cancer.
This technique is used to remove the cancer that can be seen on the surface of the penis, in addition to a small amount of normal tissue around the edge to make sure that no cancer is left behind. During the procedure, each small piece of tissue is examined under a microscope until all of the cancer is removed. This is most often used for small tumors that are only on the surface of the penis.
Cryosurgery, also called cryotherapy or cryoablation, uses liquid nitrogen to freeze and kill cells. The skin will later blister and peel. This procedure will sometimes leave a pale scar. More than one freezing may be needed.
Generally used if the cancer is only on the foreskin.
The surgical removal of part or the entire penis is the most common and effective procedure to treat penile cancer that has grown inside of the penis.
Lymph node dissection
Removal of the lymph nodes in the groin and/or pelvis is often performed to find out the stage or to treat penile cancer. Removing the lymph nodes when the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes but not anywhere else can get rid of the cancer.
Use of high-energy x-rays or other particles to destroy cancer cells. The most common type of radiation treatment is called external-beam radiation therapy, which is radiation given from a machine outside the body. When radiation treatment is given using implants, it is called internal radiation therapy or brachytherapy.
Use of drugs to destroy cancer cells, usually by stopping the cancer cells’ ability to grow and divide.