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Penile Cancer (Cancer of the penis): Information on symptoms and treatment

  • Posted on- Aug 27, 2015
  • 962 Views

Cancer of the penis, or penile cancer, is a relatively rare form of cancer that affects the skin and tissues of the penis. Penile cancer can affect different parts or layers of the penis. It occurs mostly in uncircumcised men, meaning they still have the piece of skin called the foreskin covering the head of their penis. Men between the ages of 50 and 70 are commonly diagnosed with penile cancer. Poor hygiene, smoking, multiple sexual partners, sexually transmitted infection such as HPV and a higher age are linked to penile cancer.

Signs and symptoms of penile cancer

Men suffering from penile cancer may have the following signs and symptoms:
  • A growth or sore on the penis, especially on the glans or foreskin, although cancer also occurs on the shaft
  • Changes in the colour of the penis
  • Skin thickening on the penis
  • Unrelenting discharge with a foul odour beneath the foreskin
  • Blood coming from the tip of the penis or from under the foreskin
  • Unexplained pain in the shaft or tip of the penis
  • Reddish, velvety rash beneath the foreskin
  • Small, crusty bumps beneath the foreskin
  • Swollen lymph nodes in the groin
  • Irregular inflammation at the end of the penis

Tests and diagnosis of penile cancer

In addition to a physical examination and checking medical history, your doctor may order certain tests and procedures to diagnose penile cancer:
  • Biopsy: A biopsy is the removal of a small amount of tissue for examination under a microscope. It is the most accurate test that can verify the presence of a penile cancer. The sample removed during the biopsy is sent to a lab for testing.
  • Inguinal (groin) lymph node dissection: This is the most accurate way to find out whether the cancer has spread to any lymph nodes near the penis. In this procedure, the lymph nodes near the penis are removed and checked for cancer.
  • X-ray: An X-ray is a way to create a picture of the structures inside of the body, using a small amount of radiation.
  • CT scan: A CT scan creates a three-dimensional picture of the inside of the body with an x-ray machine. A computer then combines these images into a detailed, cross-sectional view that shows tumours.
  • MRI: An MRI uses magnetic fields to produce detailed images of the body. It is performed to measure the size of the tumour.

Treatment options for penile cancer

The treatments used for penile cancer include surgery, which is the main treatment, followed by radiation therapy and chemotherapy. Before you agree to any treatment, your doctor will discuss about the possible side effects and how to deal with them.
  • Surgery: The cancer can be removed with conventional surgery, by using a laser, or by freezing it with a cold probe. However, depending upon the extent of cancer, different types of surgeries are performed such as wide local excision, removal of lymph nodes, surgery to preserve the penis and reconstruction, removing the penis and reconstructive surgery.
  • Laser therapy: Laser therapy uses very powerful beam of light to kill cancer cells. This may be an option or some men with early-stage penile cancer.
  • Radiation therapy: Radiation therapy uses high-energy X-rays or other particles to destroy cancer cells. The most common type of radiation treatment is called external-beam radiation therapy, which is radiation given from a machine outside the body.
  • Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy is the use of anti-cancer medications to destroy cancer cells, usually by stopping the cancer cells’ ability to grow and divide. Chemotherapy can be administered into the vein or given orally in the form of a pill.

After treatment for penile cancer ends, talk with your doctor about a follow-up care plan. This plan may include regular physical examinations, examination of the penis and the lymph nodes in the groin, or other medical tests to monitor your recovery for the coming months.