Penile cancer, or cancer that starts in the penis, is a rare type of cancer in the United States that is highly curable when it is caught early. Penile cancer is diagnosed when cancer (malignant) cells are found on the skin and the tissues of the penis. The exact cause of penile cancer is unknown.
The most common symptoms of penile cancer include:
- Abnormal discharge or bleeding
Men who are at a higher risk for penile cancer include:
- Men who are uncircumcised and do not keep the area under the foreskin clean
- Men with a history of genital warts
- Men with a history of human papillomavirus (HPV)
If you experience any penile cancer symptoms, see a doctor as soon as possible. Your physician will do a physical exam of the penis to find any lumps or lesions that look like a pimple or wart. If the penis does not look normal, the doctor may take a biopsy, or take a small simple of tissue to see if there are cancer cells present.
If cancer is found, treatment will be determined by the size and location of the lesion, the stage of the cancer and the general health of the patient. Normally cancer treatment includes chemotherapy, radiation therapy or surgery.
If the cancerous lesion is small or near the tip of the penis, surgery may be performed, which is the most common treatment for penile cancer. The types of penile cancer surgery may include Mohs microsurgery, laser surgery, crysosurgery or circumcision. In severe cases, a total penectomy may be necessary, which involves total removal of the penis.
With early diagnosis and treatment, the prognosis for penile cancer is good. The 5-year survival rate is 65 percent. Urination and sexual function can often be maintained even after surgery.
Prevention of penile cancer includes:
- Practicing good personal hygiene
- Practicing safer sexual practices
Please visit the UAMS Urology Cancer Clinic if you believe you have symptoms of penile cancer.