WHAT IS PENILE CANCER?

Penile Cancer is rare cancer but needs to be caught early to be treated successfully. It occurs on the skin of the penis or within the penis. There are around 630 cases in the UK each year and is mostly diagnosed in men over 60 however men in their 30s and 40s can also be affected.

There are several types of penile cancer, depending on the type of cell the cancer developed from.

The most common types include:

  • squamous cell penile cancer – this accounts for more than 90% of cases and starts in the cells that cover the surface of the penis
  • carcinoma in situ (CIS) – a particular type of squamous cell cancer where only the cells in the skin of the penis are affected and it hasn’t spread any deeper
  • adenocarcinoma – cancer that starts in the glandular cells of the penis that produce sweat
  • melanoma of the penis – this is where the cancer develops in the skin cells that give the skin its colour.

Please consult your GP for advice or diagnosis.

WHO IS AT RISK?

It isn’t always possible to prevent penile cancer, but you can reduce your chances of getting it.

One of the main ways you can reduce your chances of developing penile cancer is to give up smoking if you smoke.

It’s also important to maintain good penis hygiene to prevent the bacterial and viral infections that can increase the risk of penile cancer.

This is easier if you were circumcised as a child, but there are steps you can take if you haven’t been circumcised.

Simple penis hygiene can include:

  • using condoms to reduce the risk of catching HPV
  • regularly washing your penis with warm water, including under the foreskin

There’s little evidence to suggest that being circumcised as an adult will reduce your chances of developing penile cancer.

But if you have sores that don’t heal or it’s becoming increasingly difficult to clean under your foreskin, seek advice from your GP about the possibility of circumcision.

PENILE CANCER SYMPTOMS

You should be aware of any abnormalities or signs of penile cancer, including:

a growth or sore on the penis that doesn’t heal within 4 weeks

bleeding from the penis or from under the foreskin

a foul-smelling discharge

thickening of the skin of the penis or foreskin that makes it difficult to draw back the foreskin (phimosis)

a change in the colour of the skin of the penis or foreskin

a rash on the penis

If you experience these symptoms, it’s important to see your GP as soon as possible. It’s unlikely they’ll be caused by penile cancer, but they need to be investigated.

Any delay in diagnosing penile cancer could reduce the chances of successful treatment.

PENILE CANCER DIAGNOSIS

Your GP will ask you about any symptoms you have and when they occur. They’ll also examine your penis for signs of penile cancer.

PENILE CANCER TREATMENTS

Treatment for penile cancer depends on the size of the affected area and the rate at which the cancer has spread.

For example, in most cases of carcinoma in situ (CIS), where only the skin cells of the penis are affected, treatment usually involves either using a chemotherapy cream or having laser surgery to remove the affected area of skin.

You’ll usually have a skin graft after surgery.

The main treatments for later-stage penile cancer are:

  • surgery
  • radiotherapy
  • chemotherapy

FAQ

How common is prostate cancer?

Over 47,000 men in the UK are diagnosed with prostate cancer each year. It has become the most common cancer in men overtaking lung cancer. With PSA testing on the increase and an ageing population, incidence is predicted to rise ahead of breast cancer over the next decade.

Who does prostate cancer affect?

95% of all prostate cancer patients are aged between 45 and 80. The majority of men are aged over 60.

What causes prostate cancer?

Is there anything I can do to reduce the risk of developing it? Men with a brother or father with prostate cancer have an increased risk. When symptoms occur they may include difficulties in urinating or pain and/or stiffness in the lower back and hips. However these symptoms are more commonly caused by other conditions. If you have concerns, you should consult with your GP.

How is prostate cancer diagnosed?

Early diagnosis of prostate cancer is important for successful treatment. Diagnosis methods include the PSA Blood Test, which tests the level of rostate Specific Antigen in the blood; digital rectal examinations to feel the size of the prostate gland and biopsies which take tiny samples of tissue from the prostate.

How is prostate cancer treated?

Some prostate cancers grow so slowly that no treatment is needed. Instead, a policy of watch and wait is employed to monitor the condition. When more active treatment is required surgery, radiotherapy, hormone therapy or a combination of these treatments are used.

What You Should Do

To find out more about prostate cancer diagnosis, symptoms, treatment, and who’s most at risk.

Will any treatment affect my sex drive and will I still be able to father children?

Different treatments for prostate cancer can cause impotence, reduced ejaculation, a lowered sex drive, urinary incontinence, bowel problems, hot flushes and sweats and tiredness. Surgery, radiotherapy and hormone therapy all have different side effects which need to be considered in any decisions about treatment

Is the chance of developing prostate cancer influenced by dietary or environmental factors?

Eating a diet high in animal fat and low in fresh fruit, vegetables and fish and being exposed to cadmium (a heavy metal) or ‘radiation’ have been identified as possible risk factors. Some preliminary research suggests that Lycopene (the compound that gives the tomato its red colour), selenium and vitamin E in the diet could play a preventative role in the development.

What You Should Do?

To find out more about prostate cancer diagnosis, symptoms, treatment, and who’s most at risk.

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