Penile cancer

Penile cancer


Also called as penis cancer.

ICD-9: 187.

Penile cancer is a rare disease in which malignant cells develop in the skin and/or soft tissues of the penis.

Penis is a part of the reproductive system and the urinary system. The penis is the male sex organ. It contains a tube called the urethra, which carries semen or sperm and urine to the outside of the body.

The base of the penis is actually inside the body and is called the root. The main part of the penis is called the body or shaft. The tip of the penis is called the head or glans and is covered by a moveable layer of skin called the foreskin.

When sexually aroused, blood flow to the penis increases. Columns of special muscle tissue in the main body of the penis (erectile tissue) fill up with blood, and this makes the penis erect. Penile cancer is rare in the US and Europe.


The most common symptom is a tender spot, wart like lump or open sore, usually painless, which originates on the tip of the penis. Pain and bleeding usually occurs if the cancer is advanced.

Causes and Risk Factors:

The exact cause is unknown. Smegma, a cheese-like, foul-smelling substance found under the foreskin of the penis may increase the risk of penis cancer. Uncircumcised men who do not keep the area under the foreskin clean and men with a history of genital warts or human papillomavirus (HPV) are at higher risk for this rare disorder. However, there are defined risk factors for the disease.

    People with HPV.

  • Smoking increases your risk factor for penile cancer.

  • Age and gender.

  • Psoriasis also one of the risk factor for penis cancer.

  • Poor penis hygiene.

Stages Include:

    Stage 1: Malignant cells are found only on the surface of the penis.

    Stage 2: Malignant cells are found on the surface, tissues beneath the surface and in the shaft of the penis.

    Stage 3: Malignant cells have spread to the lymph nodes in the groin.

    Stage 4: Malignant cells have spread through the penis, lymph nodes in the groin and to other parts of the body.


After performing a physical examination, it is usually necessary to obtain a tissue sample, or biopsy, of the cancerous cells for examination under the microscope. Tissue is obtained by inserting a needle into the area of abnormal skin or tissue or by removing the entire tumor in a surgical procedure called a wide local excision. Cancers are described by the type of cells from which they arise. More than 95% of penile cancers are squamous cell carcinomas, a type of cell that is flat and thin and makes up the outer layer of the skin. Once the cancer is diagnosed, a procedure called a cystoscopy may be performed, in which a tiny camera (scope) is inserted through the opening of the penis and advanced all the way to the bladder to look for spread of cancer to the urethra (tube connecting the bladder to the penis) and/or bladder. An MRI of the penis may also be performed to determine if the tumor has spread to the deeper structures of the penis or not.


Treatments offered for penis cancer will depend on the stage the cancer has reached. Doctors specializing in cancer treatment or the genital and urinary system, known as urologists are the best and most informed doctors to consult. They will then be able to advise how to proceed with treatment. Treatment depends on the location of the tumor and how much it has spread.

In patients presenting with a primary tumour together with positive nodes, both problems should be managed simultaneously. In patients presenting initially with positive pelvic nodes, induction chemotherapy can be administered first. Radical or palliative surgery or radiotherapy is indicated according to the tumour response.

Chemotherapy - Uses medicines to kill cancer cells. Bleomycin, cisplatin, or methotrexate alone or together are usually used for treating penile cancer along with surgery.

Radiation - Using high powered x-rays to kill cancer cells. Radiation therapy is often recommended in combination with surgery. A type of radiation therapy called external beam therapy is often used. This method delivers radiation to the penis from outside the body. External beam radiation therapy is usually performed 5 days a week for 6 - 8 weeks.

Surgery - Cuts out and removes the cancer. If the tumor is small and near the tip of the penis, surgery may be done to remove only the cancerous part of the penis. This is called a partial penectomy.

For more severe tumors, total removal total penectomy is often necessary. A new opening will be created in the groin area to allow urine to exit the body. This procedure is called an urethrostomy.

Patients who have undergone treatment for penile cancer should be seen and carefully examined by a physician every 2 to 4 months for the first year. This is especially important for those patients who have not undergone removal of lymph nodes. The risk of developing spread to lymph nodes in the groin is greatest in the first 6 months after treatment.

DISCLAIMER: This information should not substitute for seeking responsible, professional medical care.


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