Penile Cancer in a Nutshell
Penile cancer is a cancer that is caused by abnormal (malignant) cells from the tissues of the penis. The penis contains two types of erectile tissue, which is spongy tissue that is filled with blood vessels. Most of the penis is made up of the two bodies of the corpora cavernosa and there is another compartment of erectile tissue called the corpus spongiosum that surrounds the urethra, the tube through which the urine and sperm pass out of the body. During an erection, this spongy tissue fills with blood to make the penis rigid. These three compartments are covered with connective tissue and skin. The head of the penis, or the glans, is covered with loose skin called the foreskin.
What are the risk factors for penile cancer?
If you become infected with human papilloma virus (HPV), your risk of developing penile cancer may be increased. Circumcision may help to reduce that risk. Circumcision is removal of the foreskin of the penis. Many male children are circumcised at birth. Other risk factors include phimosis, which is a condition in which the foreskin of the penis cannot be retracted from the glans. Poor personal hygiene, multiple sexual partners, and use of tobacco products can all increase your risk. If you are over the age of 60 years old, you are at increased risk of penile cancer.
Signs of penile cancer include sores on the penis, bleeding, and discharge. These signs can also be caused by other conditions, but you should see your physician if you notice redness, irritation, a lump, or a sore on the penis.
How is penile cancer diagnosed?
Your doctor will ask you about your health history and your habits. He will perform a thorough physical examination to look for signs of disease. A biopsy will be performed to obtain some cells from a lump or sore to be viewed under a microscope by a pathologist. The biopsy can be performed using a thin needle to remove tissue or fluid. You may have an incisional biopsy, which means the doctor will remove part of the lump or abnormal area of tissue. An excisional biopsy can also be performed to remove an entire lump or area of abnormality. Imaging studies like a CT scan will be used to see if the cancer has spread to other parts of the body. You may also have biopsies of your lymph nodes to see if your cancer has spread to there.
What can I expect?
Your prognosis will be determined by several factors:
- Location and size of the tumor
- Stage of the cancer
- Whether or not this is a new diagnosis or a recurrent cancer.
Treatments are available. Surgery is the most common treatment, but the type of surgery will depend upon the stage and spread of your tumor. Radiation and chemotherapy are also used to treat this disease. If you are concerned about a lump, sore, or abnormality on your penis, you should call today to determine if you have penile cancer or another less serious condition.