What You Need to Know About Penile Cancer – Causes and Symptoms to Be Aware Of

What You Need to Know About Penile Cancer – Causes and Symptoms to Be Aware Of

Julie Scott, DNP
Julie Scott, DNP
Penile cancer | cancerGO

What is Penile cancer?

Penile cancer is a rare type of cancer that can grow on the skin and tissues of the penis. It is most common in older men and those with certain risk factors.

Risk factors

Risk factors for penile cancer include:

  • HPV infection: HPV is a type of virus that is linked to an increased risk of penile cancer as well as other cancers.
  • Phimosis: Men with phimosis (a condition where the foreskin cannot be fully retracted) have an increased risk of penile cancer.
  • Poor hygiene: Poor hygiene practices can increase the risk of penile cancer.
  • Smoking: Men who smoke or use other forms of tobacco have an increased risk of penile cancer.
  • Age: Penile cancer is more common in older men.
  • Not being circumcised
  • Weakened immune system


Symptoms of penile cancer can include:

  • A lump or sore on the penis (may or may not be painful)
  • Thickening of the skin on the penis
  • Changes in the color of the penis
  • Persistent itching or discharge
  • Pain or bleeding with erection
  • An ulcer on the penis
  • Lumps in the groin (enlarged lymph nodes)


When someone presents to their healthcare provider with symptoms of penile cancer, an examination will likely be done.

The official diagnosis of penile cancer is usually made through a tumor tissue biopsy. Additional testing, such as imaging studies and blood tests, may also be done to determine the cancer stage and check for the disease’s spread.


Treatment for penile cancer depends on the cancer stage and the tumor’s location. Surgery is usually the first line of treatment to remove as much of the tumor as possible. This could include removing only a few layers of skin or a more involved surgery up to needing full surgical removal of the penis.

Radiation therapy and chemotherapy may also kill cancer cells and prevent the tumor from recurring.

For superficial cancers, topical treatments may be used to treat cancer.

Penile cancer is a rare but serious type that can majorly impact a man’s life. It is important to be aware of the symptoms and risk factors to catch them early and get treatment. If you are concerned about penile cancer, talk to your doctor.

Julie Scott, DNP
Julie Scott, DNP
Julie is an oncology certified Oncology Nurse Practitioner with over a decade of medical oncology experience. In addition to her clinical work, she is an accomplished healthcare writer providing oncology content for various publications. She also serves as an adjunct faculty member for a Master's nursing program and a chair for Doctoral nursing students.

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