Penile Cancer

In this rare disease, cancer cells form in the tissues of the penis. About 2,000 men in the United States are diagnosed with it each year.

What is Penile Cancer?

The penis is the male organ responsible for sexual function and the release of urine. Penile cancer can develop in the foreskin, head of the penis, or the shaft. The most common type is squamous cell carcinoma.

What causes Penile Cancer?

These risk factors have been identified:

  • A history of genital warts or human papillomavirus (HPV)
  • Environmental exposure
  • Smegma, a cheese-like, foul-smelling substance found under the foreskin of the penis may increase the risk
  • Uncircumcised men who do not keep the area under the foreskin clean
  • Smoking


Common symptoms:

  • Bleeding from the penis
  • Difficulty retracting your foreskin if you are uncircumcised
  • Pain in the penis
  • Raised lesions on the foreskin, head, or shaft of the penis

How is Penile Cancer diagnosed?

What to know before your visit to Michigan Institute of Urology in Southeast Michigan:

  • During your visit, your doctor will ask you questions regarding your medical history and will perform an exam with focus on the abdomen, groin, and genitalia

Other tests that may be performed during or after your visit:

  • Blood work
  • CT scan or MRI imaging may be needed.
  • A biopsy of a lesion may be performed either under local anesthesia in the office or in the operating room.


How is Penile Cancer treated?


Some penile tumors can be managed with medicine after a biopsy has been performed.


Most tumors will be removed, which could include circumcision. For low-grade or small lesions, local excision, laser therapy, or Mohs surgery may be used.

In patients with large or invasive tumors, part or all of the penis may need to be removed. If needed, a new opening will be created in the groin area to allow urine to exit the body.

Chemotherapy may be recommended along with surgery. Often radiation therapy is also recommended 5 days a week for 6-8 weeks.

Sampling of the lymph nodes in the groin is often required in more advanced cases, which may be performed with open surgery or laparoscopically.


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