Posted September 15, 2022 by Anusha ‐ 3 min read
Penile cancer develops when malignant cells in your penis grow out of control. Your penis is a rod-shaped reproductive organ that allows you to pee and have sex. Its main parts include the rod-like part (shaft) that extends from your low belly to the tip of your penis, called the head, or glans.
Types of Penile Cancer
Basal cell carcinoma (BCC)
Cancer begins in the bottom layer of your epithelium. BCC is a slow-growing form of penile cancer.
This cancer begins in cells that control how dark or light your skin is, called melanocytes. Melanoma is a more aggressive form of cancer.
Cancer develops in muscle or connective tissue. It’s an extremely rare form of penile cancer.
Causes of Penile Cancer
With penile cancer, a healthy cell in your skin changes to become a cancer cell.
Cancer cells multiply out of control, forming a mass called a tumor.
These cells can crowd out healthy cells. Over time, cancer cells can spread to other parts of your body, damaging healthy tissue and organs.
Researchers don’t know what causes the change that transforms a healthy cell into a cancer cell, but they’ve discovered several risk factors.
A risk factor doesn’t cause penile cancer, but it increases the possibility.
Symptoms of Penile Cancer
A painless lump or sore (that may bleed).
Swelling and irritation, especially in the head of your penis (balanitis).
Skin thickening or changing skin color.
Flat growths that look blueish-brown.
Foul-smelling fluid underneath your foreskin.
Small, crusty bumps.
Diagnosis of Penile Cancer
Physical exam and history
Your healthcare provider will examine you to check for unusual skin changes, like a lump or discoloration on your penis.
They’ll also ask about your symptoms, habits and past illnesses.
This information can help your healthcare provider determine whether the changes likely result from cancer or a more common cause like an infection or allergic reaction.
A biopsy is the only way to confirm a cancer diagnosis
During the procedure, your healthcare provider removes suspicious-looking cells or tissues.
A specialist who works in a lab (pathologist) views the cells under a microscope to check for signs of cancer.
You may need imaging to see how much the cancer’s spread. Depending on your cancer, your healthcare provider may order a CT scan, MRI, ultrasound, PET scan, or chest X-ray.
Treatment of Penile Cancer
Your healthcare provider may recommend a cream that you regularly apply to your penis. Common medicines include fluorouracil and imiquimod.
If the cancer is only on your foreskin, your healthcare provider may remove the tissue.
This procedure uses lasers that create extreme heat to destroy the tumor.
This procedure uses extreme cold to destroy the tumor.
During this procedure, your healthcare provider removes cancerous skin layer by layer until arriving at the healthy tissue underneath.
Your healthcare provider may cut the cancer cells or tumor from your penis.
Your healthcare provider may use energy beams, like X-rays, to destroy cancer cells or shrink a tumor before surgery.
A partial penectomy removes part of your penis. A total penectomy removes your entire penis. For a total penectomy, your healthcare provider will create an opening in your abdomen or the skin between your anus and scrotum (perineum) so you can pee.
Your healthcare provider may remove your lymph nodes (most commonly in your groin area) if the cancer’s spread there.