Penile cancer


Penile cancer is a rare form of cancer that occurs when cancerous cells grow in the penis. It’s believed that penile cancer is caused by a number of risk factors, including HPV infection, smoking, and poor hygiene. Symptoms of penile cancer may include a lump on the penis, changes in skin color, or ulcers. Diagnosis is done through physical exam, biopsy of the penis, and imaging tests. Treatment for penile cancer can include surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, or a combination of these treatments. A cure for penile cancer is possible with early diagnosis and treatment.


The most common symptom of penile cancer is a visible lesion or an area of abnormal-looking skin on the penis. Other symptoms may include:

  1. Discharge from the penis
  2. Blood in the urine or semen
  3. A lump on the penis
  4. An area of thickened skin
  5. A change in the color of the penis
  6. An itch or pain in the area of the penis
  7. A change in the shape of the penis
  8. Persistent soreness or ulceration
  9. Swelling of the lymph nodes in the groin


The exact cause of penile cancer is not known. However, there are some factors that may increase a man’s risk of developing this disease such as: having a foreskin that has not been circumcised, smoking, having multiple sexual partners, having HPV or Human Papilloma Virus, having a weakened immune system, having chronic inflammation of the penis and having a family history of the disease.

Risk factors

Risk factors for penile cancer include:

  1. Being uncircumcised – Circumcision significantly reduces the risk of penile cancer.
  2. HPV – Human Papillomavirus (HPV) has been linked to an increased risk of penile cancer.
  3. Smoking – The toxins in cigarettes and other forms of tobacco can damage the cells of the penis and lead to cancer.
  4. Poor hygiene – Poor hygiene has been linked to an increased risk of contracting HPV and other infections that can increase the risk of penile cancer.
  5. Age – Penile cancer is more common in men over the age of 60.
  6. Phimosis – Phimosis is a condition where the foreskin is unable to be retracted. This can make it difficult to thoroughly clean the penis and can increase the risk of penile cancer.
  7. Weakened immune system – People with weakened immune systems are more likely to develop HPV and other infections that can increase the risk of penile cancer.
  8. Family history – Men with a family history of penile cancer are more likely to develop the cancer themselves.


Penile cancer is often diagnosed through a medical examination, during which the doctor may examine the penis, scrotum, and groin. The doctor may also take a biopsy from the affected area, which is then examined under a microscope to determine the type and stage of the cancer. Imaging tests such as an MRI and CT scan may also be ordered to further inspect abnormal areas on the penis. Lastly, blood tests may be taken to measure the levels of proteins or hormones that may be associated with penile cancer.


There are two main types of penile cancer: squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma. Squamous cell carcinoma is the most common type and it develops in the tissue of the penis, usually near the foreskin. It is characterized by the appearance of an ulcer or growth on the penis. Melanoma, on the other hand, is less common and it is characterized by dark patches or lumps that develop on the penis.

Other subtypes of penile cancer include basal cell carcinoma, penile lymphoma, Bowen’s disease, adenocarcinoma, sarcoma, and penile epithelioid sarcoma. Basal cell carcinoma is a slow-growing cancer that affects the deep layers of the skin. Penile lymphoma is a rare type of cancer that generally starts in the lymphatic system of the penis. Bowen’s disease is a non-cancerous condition that affects the skin and can cause patches or sores to appear. Adenocarcinoma is a type of cancer that affects the glands of the penis, including the prostate and seminal vesicles. Sarcomas are rare tumors that affect the connective or supportive tissue of the penis, while penile epithelioid sarcoma is an even rarer type of penile cancer that can be harder to treat.


Treatment options for penile cancer depend on the size and stage of the tumor and may include one, or a combination of, the following approaches:

Surgery: Surgery is the most common treatment, and may involve partial or complete removal of the penis, known as penectomy. Sometimes other nearby lymph nodes may also be removed.

Radiation therapy: Radiation therapy may be used to shrink the tumor before surgery or after surgery to reduce the risk of recurrence.

Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy may be used to shrink the tumor before surgery or after surgery to reduce the risk of recurrence.

Immunotherapy: Immunotherapy is a form of treatment that uses substances to stimulate the body’s own immune system to fight cancer cells.

Laser ablation: Laser ablation is a technique that uses a laser to destroy cancer cells.

Cryosurgery: Cryosurgery is a treatment that uses extreme cold to freeze and destroy cancer cells and is usually used to treat small tumors.


The most important thing to do to reduce the risk of penile cancer is to practice safe sex by always using condoms when engaging in sexual activity. It is also important to get vaccinated against human papillomavirus (HPV), as some types of HPV are linked to penile cancer. Additionally, it is important to practice good hygiene, keep the area clean, and regularly inspect the penis for unusual changes. It is also important to practice healthy lifestyle habits, including maintaining a healthy weight and avoiding smoking and excessive alcohol consumption. Finally, regular screenings and exams with a healthcare provider can help to detect any potential signs or symptoms of penile cancer early.

Gender differences?

Yes, there are gender-specific differences in the presentation and management of penile cancer. Men are more likely to present with penile cancer than women, although the rates of diagnosis are rising in both populations. In men, the most common presentation is a lump or ulceration on the foreskin or glans of the penis, while women generally present with a palpable mass in the labia or perineum.

Men are also more likely to be diagnosed with more aggressive forms of penile cancer such as squamous cell carcinomas, while women are more likely to present with more indolent tumors such as adenocarcinomas. Treatment strategies also differ depending on gender, as men are more likely to receive more aggressive treatments such as surgery, while women may receive less aggressive treatments such as radiation therapy or chemotherapy.


The role of nutrition in the management of penile cancer is increasingly being recognized as a means of both preventing and treating the disease. Proper nutrition can help maintain a healthy body weight and can provide essential vitamins, minerals, and essential fatty acids, which may be beneficial in reducing the risk of certain cancers, including penile cancer. Proper nutrition can maintain the body’s immune system and reduce inflammation associated with certain cancers. Additionally, proper nutrition can help to reduce the side effects of any treatment for penile cancer, including nausea, vomiting, and low energy. Eating a variety of healthy foods and limiting the intake of unhealthy foods, such as processed and fried foods, can also help reduce the risk of developing penile cancer.

Physical Activity

Physical activity has not been shown to have any direct effect on the occurrence of penile cancer. It is not known if physical activity can help prevent penile cancer, however, it is possible that physical activity can help a person maintain a healthy weight, blood glucose levels, and immune system, which could help reduce a person’s risk of developing other types of cancers as well as other serious health problems. If a person is concerned they may be at risk of developing penile cancer, they should speak to their doctor to discuss their individual risk factors.

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