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Penile Cancer

Cancer of the penis can occur anywhere along the penile shaft, but most are on the foreskin or head (glans).

It is usually a slow-growing cancer and is curable if discovered early.

There are a number of stages: -
  • Stage 1: - cancer cells are found only on the surface of the glans and on the foreskin
  • Stage 2: - cancer cells are found in the deeper tissues of the glans and have spread to the shaft of the penis
  • Stage 3: - cancer cells are found in the penis and have spread to the nearby lymph nodes in the groin
  • Stage 4: - cancer cells are found throughout the penis and the lymph nodes in the groin and/or have spread to other parts of the body


The exact cause is unknown.

Smegma, a cheese-like, foul-smelling substance found under the foreskin of the penis may increase the risk of penis cancer.

Uncircumcised men who do not keep the area under the foreskin clean and men with a history of genital warts or human papillomavirus (HPV) are at higher risk for this rare disorder.


  • Genital lesions on the penis
  • Painless sore on penis (occasionally, the lesion may cause pain)
  • Penis pain and bleeding from the penis (may occur with advanced disease)

Exams and Tests

The health care provider will perform a physical exam, which may reveal a non-tender lesion that looks like a pimple or wart. This growth is typically near the end of the penis.

A biopsy of the growth is needed to confirm if it is cancer.

Treatment of Penile Cancer

Treatment is determined by the tumor size and staging. If the tumor is small and local, it can be treated surgically, chemically, or with radiation or laser without major damage to the appearance or function of the penis.

If it has penetrated the deeper penile tissues or is large, surgery is the preferred treatment for most men. Radiation is an option but results are less certain.

If the tumor has spread to lymph nodes, surgery or radiation is used. Chemotherapy is of little value in extensive carcinoma of the penis.

In general, cancer treatment includes : -
  • Chemotherapy : -uses medicines to kill cancer cells
  • Radiation : - using high powered x-rays to kill cancer cells
  • Surgery : - cuts out and removes the cancer

If the tumor is small and near the tip of the penis, surgery may be done to remove only the cancerous part of the penis. This is called a partial penectomy.

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