Penile cancer is diagnosed when cancerous cells or a malignant tumor is found within or on the outside of the penis. In the United States, this form of cancer is relatively rare with approximately one in 100,000 men being diagnosed each year. There are several types of penile cancer, the most common being squamous cell carcinoma.
Types of penile cancer
Penile cancer can develop on the outside of the penis, or within the tissues of the penis. Some cancers are slow growing while others can be aggressive. Below is a list of some forms of penile cancer. The key to treating this cancer is diagnosing it in the early stages of growth.
Squamous cell carcinoma – This type of penile cancer is the most common and can start anywhere on the penis. Most often it is located on the foreskin or underneath the foreskin. Squamous cell carcinoma is slow growing and is highly treatable when found in the early stages of development.
Melanoma – Melanoma is a serious form of skin cancer that develops below the skin’s surface in melanocyte cells. When found in the penis, it can be fast growing and aggressive so requires immediate attention.
Basal cell carcinoma – Basal cell carcinoma is also found beneath the skin’s surface. Unlike melanoma, it grows slowly and is not as aggressive. It is a much less common penile cancer.
Sarcoma – Sarcoma is another low-incidence cancer. This type of cancer develops in tissues found in the fat, muscles and blood vessels within the penis.
There are several identifiable risk factors associated with this type of cancer. Below is a list of conditions that may affect the development of this cancer. These factors do not mean that you will develop cancer.
- Human papillomavirus (HPV) – This infection is an important contributor to penile cancer.
- Age – This type of cancer is generally diagnosed between the ages of 60 – 70.
- Uncircumcised men – It is common to have this cancer develop on or beneath the foreskin. Men who are circumcised (foreskin has been removed) are at a lower risk of developing this cancer.
- Hygiene – Keeping the foreskin clean on a regular basis can help reduce the chance of this cancer. When not practicing good hygiene, a smegma may develop beneath the foreskin that could lead to cancer.
- Phimosis – This condition causes the foreskin to become stretched and tight. When this happens, smegma may become more of a problem which causes risk.
- HIV/AIDS – Persons with HIV/AIDS are at risk of developing penile cancer.
- Smoking – Smoking can play a role in this disease.
Symptoms of penile cancer
There are several symptoms that may point to the presence of cancer. Any unusual growth on the penis or change in skin color / appearance should be examined as soon as possible. Symptoms may include:
- An unexplained growth or lump
- Unusual skin discoloration on the penis
- A patch of skin on the penis that seems thick
- Any type of bump or group of bumps beneath the foreskin
- Inflammation, discharge or blood from beneath the foreskin
- Pain located on or withing the penis
- Unexplained swelling along the penis shaft, head, foreskin, or in nearby lymph nodes
Treatment options for penile cancer
There are different approaches for treating this cancer. The best option will depend on the location of the tumor, its grade and stage, if the cancer is localized or if it has metastasized beyond the penis, if the cancer is in the lymph nodes, and whether the tumor is on the outside of the penis or within layers of tissue. Treatment options can include:
- Surgery – several different surgical techniques including partial or radical Penectomy
- Radiation therapy
- Chemotherapy – topical or systemic
If you have discovered any unusual changes to your penis, contact Urology Austin to schedule an appointment as soon as possible. While penile cancer is rare, it is most effectively treated in its early stages.