everything about penile cancer

What Percentage Of Males Get Cancer?

It is a type of cancer with a reasonable survival rate if the disease is treated in its early stage. But the chance of recovery decreases when the person starts delaying from getting the treatment. It is a scarce type of cancer; usually, people are familiar with testicular cancer but may not know about the penis's cancer.

As per the American Cancer Society, the number of penile cancer cases in the United States is estimated to be:-

  • About 2,200 new cases of penile cancer diagnosed this year
  • Around 440 deaths 

Penile cancer is very rare in North America and Europe. Around 2,300 cases occur every year in the United States. It is very uncommon among United States men and counts to less than 1% of all men diagnosed. It was noticed that many cases of penile cancer are related to Human Papillomavirus(HPV) and are more common in countries such as Africa, Asia, and South America.

As cancer spreads, the rate of recovery drops. 82% of penile cancer patients have the chance to survive for five years or more after their first diagnosis, with the delay in the treatment, this survival rate decreases. The survival rate reaches 50% if you diagnose cancer has already spread to the surrounding tissues, organs, or the regional lymph nodes. The rate further decreases to 12% once cancer has spread a distant part of the body.

everything about penile cancer

What Is Penile Cancer?

It is a very uncommon form of cancer that affects the skin and tissues of the penis. It affects the healthy tissues of the penis and makes them cancerous and begins to grow out of control, causing tumors. Cancer may also spread from the penis to other parts of the body, such as glands, lymph nodes, and other organs.

Depending upon the type of cell cancer developed from, the penile cancer is categorized into some of its most common forms, such as:-

  • Squamous cell penile cancer: This is the most common type of penile cancer, accounting for almost 90% of the penile cancer cases. It affects the cells present on the covering surface of the penis.
  • Carcinoma In Situ(CIS): It is a very particular type of squamous cell cancer that affects the cells in the penis's skin that hasn't spread any deeper.
  • Adenocarcinoma: When the cancer cells start to develop in the glandular cells of the penis, which is responsible for producing sweat, is called adenocarcinoma type of penile cancer.
  • Melanoma of the penis: It is a type of penile cancer in the part of the skin that gives color to the skin.

What Does Penile Cancer Look Like?

The initial symptoms of penile cancer typically start from a lump, mass, or ulcer on the penis and may appear as an insignificant bump, small or large, infected sore. Mostly, it is located on the head or foreskin instead of on the shaft of the penis.

Some other penile cancer symptoms can help you to know the occurrence of penile cancer, such as:-

  • Itching
  • Burning
  • Irritation
  • Discharge
  • Red rashes on the penis
  • A foul-smelling discharge
  • A sore on the penis that can heal within four weeks or more
  • Bleeding from the penis or under the foreskin
  • The skin of the penis or foreskin may become thick, causing difficulty in drawing back the foreskin (phimosis)
  • The skin color of the penis or foreskin may seem to change

Consult with your doctor once you start experiencing any of these symptoms as the sooner you’ll seek treatment, the chance of recovery is more. 

Who Is At Risk For Penile Cancer?

Men with an uncircumcised penis are more prone to complications, such as phimosis and smegma, which increases the risk of developing penile cancer.

Phimosis is a complication in which the foreskin gets tightened and difficult to retract. Men suffering from phimosis are at a greater risk of developing smegma. 

Smegma is a substance formed from the dead skin cells, moisture, and oil that gets collected underneath the foreskin. It usually occurs when uncircumcised men do not clean the area under the foreskin properly.

Men with other conditions are also at a higher risk of developing penile cancer, such as:-

  • Men of 60 years of age and above
  • Smoking cigarettes
  • Men with poor personal hygiene
  • Men who live in a region with poor sanitation and hygiene practices
  • Men with a sexually transmitted infection, such as the human papillomavirus (HPV)

How Is Penile Cancer Diagnosed?

Your doctor can diagnose penile cancer by performing a physical examination along with some diagnostic tests. While analyzing physically, your doctor will examine your penis and will try to inspect any lumps, masses, or sores if present. 

In case cancer is suspected, your doctor will most probably perform a biopsy. It is a process in which the removal of a small sample of skin or tissue infected by cancer from the penis. The sample is then examined to determine whether cancer cells are present or not.

With the help of the biopsy, the doctor confirms the presence of cancer cells. If the biopsy results come positive, your doctor wants to know how much cancer has spread through and may go for cystoscopy.

It is a medical procedure that involves the use of an instrument known as a cystoscope. It is a thin tube with a small camera and light at the end, which is inserted into the penis opening and through the bladder. This will help the doctor to view the different areas of the penis and the surrounding structures, making it possible to determine whether cancer has spread.

If the doctor finds it necessary, an MRI of the penis may also be required in order to make sure that cancer hasn’t invaded the deeper tissues of the penis.

Before coming to the treatment, it is better to know about cancer stages as the penile cancer treatment is based on the stages of cancer.

Also Read: Legitimate Financial Aids For Cancer Patients- Because It Is Ruthless

What Are The Stages Of Penile Cancer?

The stage of cancer indicates how far cancer has spread. Based on the diagnosis results, your doctor will get to know about the stage of the cancer. This will help the doctor to find the best treatment plan according to the situation.

The stages of penile cancer as listed below:-

Stage 0:

  • Cancer infection is only on the top layer of the skin and not any glands, lymph nodes, or other body parts.


Stage 1:

  • In this stage of the cancer, the infection has spread into the connective tissue just below the skin and not to any of the glands, lymph nodes, or other parts of the body.


Stage 2:

  • In this particular penile cancer stage, the infection develops on the connective tissue, lymph vessels or blood vessels or cells that look very different from normal cells, or cancer has spread to erectile tissues or the urethra.


Stage 3A:

  • In stage 3A, the cancer infection will spread to the connective tissue below the skin and to lymph vessels, blood vessels, erectile tissues, urethra, one or two lymph nodes in the groin.


Stage 3B:

  • In this stage, the infection will spread to the connective tissue below the skin and to lymph vessels or blood vessels or cells that look very different from normal cells, cancer, erectile tissues, urethra, and multiple lymph nodes in the groin.


Stage 4: 

  • The infection will occur to nearby areas, such as the pubic bone, prostate, and scrotum. The infection may also occur in other areas and organs of the body.

Can Penile Cancer Be Cured?

In case of any type of cancer, the treatment depends on the amount of infected area, same is with the cancer of the penis. To make it clearer, penile cancer is categorized into two parts based on the amount of infection spread. There are two main types of penile cancer; invasive and non-invasive. 

Non-Invasive penile cancer is a condition in which cancer has not reached the deeper tissues, lymph nodes, and glands.

Invasive penile cancer is a condition where cancer has reached deeply into the penis tissue, surrounding lymph nodes, and glands.

Penile cancer treatment depends on the amount of cancer spread. Keeping this in mind, some of the main treatments for noninvasive penile cancer are as follows:-

  • Circumcision: It is a process of removing the foreskin of the penis.
  • Laser therapy: It involves high-intensity light that is focused on destroying tumors and cancer cells.
  • Chemotherapy: It is an aggressive form of chemical drug therapy that helps eliminate the cancer cells in the body.
  • Radiation therapy: High-energy radiation therapy results in the shrinkage of tumors and kills cancer cells.
  • Cryosurgery: This therapy involves the use of liquid nitrogen that freezes tumors and removes them.

Penile cancer treatment involves major surgery in order to remove the tumor, entire penis, or lymph nodes in the groin and pelvis. Surgery options for treating invasive penile cancer are as follows:-


Excisional surgery

Excisional surgery helps to remove the tumor from the penis. It involves a local anesthetic to numb the area so you will not sense any pain. Your surgeon will then try to remove the tumor along with the affected area, leaving a border of healthy tissue and skin. These incisions will be further closed with stitches.


Moh’s surgery

Moh’s surgery's main motive is to remove the least amount of tissue possible that can help recover from penile cancer. In this surgery, your surgeon will remove only a thin layer of the affected area. The removal of the infected skin is further examined under a microscope to determine whether it contains cancer cells. This process is repeated until all the cancer cells present in the tissue samples are examined.


Partial penectomy

In the partial penectomy, a part of the penis is removed. This operation is effective only if the tumor is small in size. In the case of large tumors, the entire penis will be removed. Full removal of the penis is known as total penectomy.

Even after the treatment you may be asked to visit the doctor every two to four months for one year after the surgery. 

In case your entire penis is removed, your doctor may suggest penis reconstructive surgery.