Penile Cancer: The Basics

OncoLink Team
Last Reviewed: December 27, 2017

Penile cancer is caused by cells, either on the inside or outside of the penis, growing out of control. As the number of cells grows, they form into a tumor. There are a few types of penile cancer, but the most common is squamous cell cancer, which starts on the skin of the penis.

Risks

  • No circumcision
  • Unretractable foreskin
  • Poor clean habits
  • HPV (Human Papillomavirus. A viruse that can cause warts in the groin area.) or HIV infection

Screening

There are no standard tests to look for penile cancer. If a man finds any new mark, wart, blister, sore or white patch, he should talk to his healthcare provider.

Signs and Symptoms of Penile Cancer

  • New lump, mass, or ulcer on the penis
  • Swollen lymph node in the groin (area around the penis)

Diagnosis of Penile Cancer

When your healthcare provider thinks you may have penile cancer, they will order tests. These tests may include:

  • Biopsy: take  a piece of the penile tissue to look for cancer cells.
  • Cystoscopy: a small camera is put through the opening of the penis and into the bladder to look for the spread of cancer.
  • CT, MRI or ultrasound may be done to check for spread of the cancer.

Staging Penile Cancer

To guide treatment, penile cancer is "staged." This stage is based on:

  • Size and location of the tumor.
  • Whether cancer cells are in the lymph nodes.
  • Whether cancer cells are in other parts of the body.

Stages range from stage I to stage IV. The stage and type of penile cancer will help your provider decide on your treatment plan.

Treatment

Treatments may include one or more of these:

  • Surgery to remove the cancer on the skin of the penis or remove the affected part of the penis.
  • Radiation can be used instead of surgery, alone, or with chemotherapy.
  • Brachytherapy, which uses radioactive seeds that are put into the tumor.
  • Chemotherapy can either go into your blood stream (by IV) or directly onto the cancer (called topical).

Your provider may suggest a combination of treatments for the best result.

This article is a basic guide to penile cancer. You can learn more about penile cancer and treatments by using the links below.

All About Penile Cancer

Surgical Procedures: Surgery and Staging for Penile Cancer

Surgical Procedures: Penectomy to Treat Penile Cancer

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