Penile cancer is mainly found in men over sixty. Squamous cell carcinoma, a form of skin cancer that originates in the glans or foreskin, is the most widely diagnosed type of penile cancer.
Although it is extremely rare in Europe and North America, it has accounted for up to 10% of the cancers diagnosed in Africa and South America.
One of the first signs of penile cancer is a change in the skin’s appearance. The skin may change color, become thicker, or appear swollen. Other symptoms can include a small bump, growth, or lesion on the head (or sometimes shaft) of the penis, or patches of red, irritated skin on the foreskin. Another symptom is a discharge with a bad odor.
If a patient suspects they may have penile cancer, they should see their doctor immediately and get a complete physical exam. Since most penile cancer symptoms are visible, the doctor can easily determine what further tests may be needed. The patient may have to undergo a biopsy or any number of imaging tests, such as an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging), x-ray, or CT (computed tomography) scan, to receive a proper diagnosis.
Penile cancer can be treated through a number of ways, including chemotherapy and radiation, but the majority of patients are successfully treated by one of 5 forms of surgery:
Wide local excision: The mass and some healthy tissue near it are removed.
Microsurgery: Doctors use a microscope to pinpoint the tumor and remove it, leaving behind as much healthy tissue as possible.
Laser surgery: Doctors use a laser to burn or cut away the cancerous cells.
Circumcision: The foreskin with the cancerous mass is removed.
Penectomy (amputation): Part or all of the penis, and possibly the nearby lymph nodes, is removed.
The success of the patient’s treatment depends on the size, location, and stage of the cancer.