Cancer of the Penis the Facts, Signs, Symptoms and Diagnosis

Cancer of the penis is quite rare. Cancer is a big worry for many people though. It is estimated now that at least 300,000 people a year are now diagnosed with every year in the UK. The most common forms of cancer are breast, lung, colon and prostate cancer. Cancer of the penis is much rarer.

In Britain around 400 men a year are diagnosed with cancer of the penis and it mostly affects men who are 60 of age or older. It is more common in South East Asia and Africa.


The research into penis cancer is not very advanced and not much is known about it. Cancer of the penis is believed to be related to general hygiene and is found to be less common in men who have been circumcised. The reason being that men who haven’t had their foreskin removed will find it much harder to pull back their foreskin to clean thoroughly underneath. The human papilloma virus human (HPV) that causes penile warts also increases the risk of cancer of the penis.

Cancer of the penis is not hereditary and so other members of the family are not likely to develop it. Cancer of the penis is not contagious either.

It is vital to keep a check on penis health because some skin conditions can develop into cancer if left unchecked and untreated. Please check for white patches, red scaly patches and red moist patches of skin on your penis.

Signs and symptoms

The first signs penile cancer is most likely to be changes in the color and thickness of the skin of the penis. This may then lead to symptoms including growth or sores on the penis which will be most likely around the head the penis or on the shaft. This may lead to discharge or bleeding. Most penile cancers are painless.

It is vital as with most cancers to have an early diagnosis and therefore gain treatment quickly to bring about a positive outcome. Cancers can sometimes appear as flat growths that are blue-brownish in colour, or as a red rash, or small crusty bumps. It is vital to pull back the foreskin regularly to check because often it is the only time these symptoms are visible.

At this point that we must say that other illnesses than cancer can bring about these conditions however if you have any of these symptoms please visit you doctor or health specialist straight away.


If you go to your doctor with any suspicious symptoms your doctor will examine you then if feel it is prudent will refer you to a hospital specialist for advice and treatment.

The specialist will examine the whole of the penis and the lymph nodes in your groin. If the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes they may be enlarged. To make a firm diagnosis, the doctor will take a sample of tissue (a biopsy) from any sore or abnormal areas on the penis. This will usually be done under a local anaesthetic so that the area is numb. The biopsies will be examined under a microscope.

If the biopsy comes back positive for cancer then to assess the seriousness most doctors will do more test to make sure the cancer hasn’t spread into the body.

Cancer is spread through either the blood of through the lymphatic system. The lymphatic system is part of he body’s defence against infection and disease. It works as a network of lymph glands linked by fine ducts containing lymph fluid. Tests are done to see how best to treat a patient.

Other tests include:-

Chest x-ray
A chest x-ray is usually done to check whether or not the cancer has spread to the lungs.

CT (computerized tomography) Scan
A CT scan is a specialized type of x-ray. A series of pictures is taken and fed into a computer to build up a detailed picture of the inside of the body. The scan can show whether or not the cancer has spread to other parts of the body. It is painless and takes 10 to 30 minutes.

Lymph node biopsy
If you have any enlarged lymph nodes in the groin, your doctor may put a needle into the node to get a sample of cells. This is to see whether or not the enlargement is due to cancer. Enlarged lymph nodes are often due to infection and not cancer, so your doctor may also give you a course of antibiotics to see whether or not the swollen nodes shrink.

Once you have been diagnosed then doctors can go about treating the problem. The earlier the prognosis the more chance of survival if you feel you may have penile cancer then please visit you doctor. You are not being silly.

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