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What is Penile Cancer?

Penile cancer is a very rare form of cancer that forms in the tissues of the penis. The majority of penile cancers begin as small lesions in the prepuce or foreskin, the loose skin that folds over the base of the glans. Penile cancer can also develop in the glans, the head or tip of the penis. Only about 1,300 men are diagnosed with penile cancer in the United States each year.

Symptoms of Penile Cancer

To help in the early detection of penile cancer, it is important to perform self-exams and to know your body. Any changes in appearance in the skin on or around the penis should be brought to the attention of your doctor. While some men may feel embarrassed to talk to a doctor about their symptoms, having your urologist check any suspicious signs can be life-saving. Penile cancers usually begin as small, painless bumps or areas of discoloration on the glans or prepuce, that when caught early, are very treatable. Signs and symptoms of penile cancer vary from man to man.

Some of the more common symptoms of penile cancer include:
  • Change in the skin of the penis that may include redness or rash
  • Wart-like growth or a small bump on the penis that may or may not be painful
  • An open sore that won’t heal
  • Persistent, foul-smelling discharge under the foreskin
  • Swollen lymph nodes in the groin if the cancer has spread

If you experience any changes in the skin on or around your penis, it is important to contact your doctor for an exam to rule out any serious medical conditions.

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Are You at Risk?

It is believed that several risk factors can lead to an increase in incidences of penile cancer including:

  • Age – Most cases of penile cancer are seen in men between the ages of 50 and 70 years.
  • Uncircumcised males – Circumcision at birth greatly reduces a man’s risk for developing penile cancer.
  • Smoking.
  • Sexually transmitted diseases including the herpes simplex virus and Human papillomavirus (HPV). HPV 16 and HPV 18 are most often linked to penile cancer.
  • Inflammation or trauma to the penis.
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Monday–Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

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