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Penile cancer treatment and diagnosis

Penile cancer is rare. It affects the skin on the penis or under the foreskin. It’s more common if you’re over 50.

Penile cancer treatment at GenesisCare

What is penile cancer?

There are different types of penile cancer. The most common is squamous cell penile cancer. It usually develops under the foreskin in uncircumcised men. It can also begin on the penis head (glans).

Other types include:

  • Adenocarcinoma which starts in the sweat-producing glandular cells
  • Carcinoma in situ (CIS) which affects only the cells in the penis skin
  • Melanoma of the penis which begins in cells that give the skin its colour

Causes of penile cancer

No one is certain what causes penile cancer. You’re more likely to get it if you:

  • Smoke
  • Have a common sexually transmitted virus known as human papillomavirus (HPV)
  • Have a condition where your foreskin is difficult to pull back (phimosis). This makes it more likely that you’ll get infections that increase your risk of penile cancer

Signs and symptoms

What are the symptoms of penile cancer?

  • A growth or sore that doesn’t heal by itself within a month
  • A rash on the penis
  • Bleeding from the foreskin or penis
  • Changes in colour of the skin of the penis
  • Discharge that smells unpleasant
  • Thicker skin that makes retracting the penis difficult (phimosis)

Having these symptoms doesn’t mean you have penile cancer, but it’s best to get them checked by a doctor. The sooner your cancer is detected, the better the chances of treating it successfully.

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Tests and diagnosis

Your doctor will ask you about your symptoms and if there’s anything that makes them better or worse. After a physical examination, your doctor may refer you to see a specialist for further tests. These include:

  • A biopsy where a small sample of tissue is removed for analysis
  • Blood tests
  • Colposcopy using a microscope to check for abnormal vaginal cells
  • Fine needle aspiration to take a small sample of cells for analysis
  • Scans including CT, MRI and PET-CT scan

Treatments

Treatments for penile cancer include surgery (wide local excision of the tumour, partial or total penectomy, with or without groin lymph node removal), radiotherapy and chemotherapy.

Radiotherapy

Radiotherapy kills cancer cells. It’s used in the early stages of cancer treatment or after it has started to spread. It can also be used to relieve pain and discomfort from cancer that has spread.

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Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy is medication that treats your cancer. The drugs kill cancer cells, preventing them from dividing and spreading further.

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