Penile Cancer

At a Glance

  • Penile cancer is a rare disease in which malignant (cancer) cells form in the tissues of the penis.
  • Penile cancer is rare in most developed nations, including the United States, where the rate is less than 1 per 100,000 men per year.
  • If diagnosed early penile cancer is highly curable.
  • Estimated new cases and deaths from penile cancer in the United States in 2010 are 1,250 and 310 respectively.
  • Risk factors for penile cancer include being age 60 or older, having phimosis (a condition in which the foreskin of the penis cannot be pulled back over the glans), poor personal hygiene, having many sexual partners, using tobacco products.
  • Men who were not circumcised at birth may have a higher risk of developing penile cancer.
    • Signs of penile cancer include redness, irritation, or a sore or a lump on the penis.

 

Anatomy

The penis is a rod-shaped male reproductive organ that passes sperm and urine from the body. It contains two types of erectile tissue (spongy tissue with blood vessels that fill with blood to make an erection):

  • Corpora cavernosa: The two columns of erectile tissue that form most of the penis.
  • Corpus spongiosum: The single column of erectile tissue that forms a small portion of the penis. The corpus spongiosum surrounds the urethra (the tube through which urine and sperm pass from the body).

The erectile tissue is wrapped in connective tissue and covered with skin. The glans (head of the penis) is covered with loose skin called the foreskin.

Risk Factors

Anything that increases your chance of getting a disease is called a risk factor. Risk factors for penile cancer include the following:

  • Being age 60 or older.
  • Having phimosis (a condition in which the foreskin of the penis cannot be pulled back over the glans).
  • Having poor personal hygiene.
  • Having many sexual partners.
  • Using tobacco products.

 

Prevention

Circumcision may help prevent infection with the human papillomavirus (HPV). A circumcision is an operation in which the doctor removes part or the entire foreskin from the penis. Many boys are circumcised shortly after birth. Men who were not circumcised at birth may have a higher risk of developing penile cancer.

Symptoms

Possible signs of penile cancer include:

  • Redness, irritation, or a sore on the penis.
  • A lump on the penis.