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Penile cancer is a disease in which malignant cells are found on the skin and in the tissue of the penis. It is a rare cancer in the United States.
According to the American Cancer Society, penile cancer is rare. It accounts for fewer than 1% of cancers in men in the U.S. Every year, doctors diagnose about 2,200 new cases in the U.S., and about 440 men die from it.
Almost all penile cancers develop from skin cells called squamous cells. They can develop anywhere on the penis, but most commonly occur on the foreskin in uncircumcised men or on the glans (the tip of the penis).
The exact cause of penile cancer is unknown. Although, there are factors that are believed to be involved in its cause.
Common risk factors of penile cancer include:
Some of these symptoms may not be visible unless the foreskin is pulled back. Most penile cancers do not cause pain, but some can cause ulcerations and bleeding.
The first sign of penile cancer is often a change in the skin of the penis. These changes may include:
If cancer has spread from the penis, you may also feel swelling of the lymph nodes in your groin.
A number of benign conditions, including genital warts and infections, may give similar symptoms to penile cancer. For this reason, it is very important to get a correct diagnosis as early as possible.
Diagnosing penile cancer includes:
If your medical history or physical exam suggests you might have penile cancer, your doctor will perform other tests.
Common tests include:
Squamous cell penile tumors tend to grow slowly and can usually be cured when they are detected early. Early detection leads to treatment that is simpler, more effective, and less likely to cause significant side effects or complications.
The three main methods for treating penile cancer are surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy. Surgery is the most common treatment for all stages of penile cancer.
If doctors find penile cancer early, chances for a cure are better. Doctors can treat early-stage penile cancer with less invasive therapies. Doctors can treat advanced penile cancer, but this often requires much more invasive surgery.
Radiation is an alternative to surgery, especially if the tumor is small. Radiation uses high-energy rays to kill cancer cells. It is also used to keep cancer from returning. Chemotherapy is a treatment for more advanced penile cancer. If your cancer has spread beyond the penis, chemo drugs enter the body through a needle into a vein (IV).
Topical therapies are available for low-risk penile cancers which will then require close monitoring.
The Department of Urology provides expert diagnosis and treatment of penile cancer. Department surgeons perform a range of surgical options, including surgery to remove cancer that has spread to the lymph nodes.
For patient referral or consultations, contact the Department of Urology at 412-692-4100.