General Information About Penile Cancer
Key Points for This Section
- Penile cancer is a disease in which malignant (cancer) cells form in the tissues of the penis.
- Human papillomavirus infection may increase the risk of developing penile cancer.
- Possible signs of penile cancer include sores, discharge, and bleeding.
- Tests that examine the penis are used to detect (find) and diagnose penile cancer.
- Certain factors affect prognosis (chance of recovery) and treatment options.
The penis is a rod-shaped male reproductive organ that passes sperm and urine from the body. It contains two types of erectile tissue (spongy tissue with blood vessels that fill with blood to make an erection):
- Corpora cavernosa: The two columns of erectile tissue that form most of the penis.
- Corpus spongiosum: The single column of erectile tissue that forms a small portion of the penis. The corpus spongiosum surrounds the urethra (the tube through which urine and sperm pass from the body).
Anything that increases your chance of getting a disease is called a risk factor. Having a risk factor does not mean that you will get cancer; not having risk factors doesn't mean that you will not get cancer. Talk with your doctor if you think you may be at risk. Risk factors for penile cancer include the following:
Circumcision may help prevent infection with the human papillomavirus (HPV). A circumcision is an operation in which the doctor removes part or all of the foreskin from the penis. Many boys are circumcised shortly after birth. Men who were not circumcised at birth may have a higher risk of developing penile cancer.
Other risk factors for penile cancer include the following:
- Being age 60 or older.
- Having phimosis (a condition in which the foreskin of the penis cannot be pulled back over the glans).
- Having poor personal hygiene.
- Having many sexual partners.
- Using tobacco products.
These and other symptoms may be caused by penile cancer. Other conditions may cause the same symptoms. Check with your doctor if you have any of the following problems:
- Redness, irritation, or a sore on the penis.
- A lump on the penis.
The following tests and procedures may be used:
- Physical exam and history : An exam of the body to check general signs of health, including checking the penis for signs of disease, such as lumps or anything else that seems unusual. A history of the patient’s health habits and past illnesses and treatments will also be taken.
- Biopsy : The removal of cells or tissues so they can be viewed under a microscope by a pathologist to check for signs of cancer.
- The stage of the cancer.
- The location and size of the tumor.
- Whether the cancer has just been diagnosed or has recurred (come back).