Cancer of penis is rare.
The commonest site for cancer of penis is the foreskin and the head of penis (glans). The commonest type of cancer of penis is called squamous cell carcinoma which develops from squamous cells that cover the surface of the penis.
Risk factors for penile cancer include:
Age: Risk of penile increases with age; most cases occur after 60 years.
Human papilloma virus (HPV) or genital warts infection increases the risk of penile cancer.
Poor personal hygiene, particularly of genital area
Multiple sexual partners
History of phimosis: This is a condition where the foreskin cannot be pulled back over the head of penis.
Many studies have shown that doing a circumcision operation (that is, removal of foreskin) can reduce the risk of cancer of the penis.
Symptoms of penile cancer
Symptoms of penile cancer may include:
• A sore on the penis that does not go away. The sore may look like a blister, ulcer or a wart
• Redness, irritation or rash on the penis
• A lump on the penis
• Bleeding or discharge from the penis
If the cancer has spread to groin or other parts of the body, there may be swollen lymph nodes in the groin, pain in the abdomen, pain in the bones, loss of appetite, loss of weight, tiredness and weakness.
Diagnosis of penile cancer
The diagnosis of penile cancer is based on the history, physical examination by the doctor and tests.
Physical examination: The doctor examines the penis for abnormal areas, sores, lumps and discharge. He/she will also examine the lymph nodes of the groin.
Biopsy: This is the sure way to diagnose penile cancer. The doctor will take a sample of tissue from the abnormal area or growth in the penis. This is then sent to a laboratory where a pathologist checks for cancer cells. The biopsy is usually done under local anesthesia but the doctor may sometimes do under general anesthesia.
Treatment of Penile Cancer
In majority of cancer cases, the general practitioner or the family physician coordinates the diagnosis and treatment of penile cancer and refers patients to other professionals including surgeons and cancer specialists.
The type of treatment for penile cancer depends on the size of the tumour, type and grade of cancer, age and general health and fitness of the patient. The treatment options include surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy.
Surgery may involve just removal of foreskin called circumcision, or part of the penis or whole of the penis called amputation.
Radiotherapy is given:
• When the patient cannot or does not want an operation
• After surgery to reduce the risk of cancer coming back and
• In advanced stage of cancer to relieve symptoms
The patient may be given chemotherapy if the cancer has spread from the penis to other parts of the body. Chemotherapy is often combined with radiotherapy.
Prognosis of penile cancer
The prognosis depends mainly on the stage of the cancer and whether it has spread to the lymph nodes in the groin. The prognosis for early stage of cancer is good. There is no proven strategy to screen or prevent cancers of penis.