Cancer of the penis is rare. Its exact cause is unknown. However, certain risk factors include:

  • Uncircumcised men who don't keep the area under the foreskin clean
  • History of genital warts, or human papillomavirus (HPV)
  • Smoking
  • Injury to the penis

The cancer usually affects middle age and older men.

Penile Cancer Symptoms

Early symptoms may include:

  • Sore, bump, rash, or swelling at the tip or on the shaft of the penis
  • Foul-smelling discharge beneath the foreskin

As the cancer advances, symptoms may include:

  • Pain and bleeding from the penis (may occur with advanced disease)
  • Lumps in the groin area from spread of the cancer to the groin lymph nodes
  • Weight loss
  • Difficulty in passing urine

Penile Cancer Treatment Options

Penile cancer can metastasize (spread) to the lymph nodes. Treatment includes:

  • Surgery. In the case of penis cancer, surgery usually involves a local excision, which is removal of a portion of the penis in order to examine the cells under a microscope. At Wake Forest Baptist, our doctors use microsurgery, so as little amount of tissue is removed as possible.

    Your doctor will want to know the grade, depth and stage of the tumor, which is another way of saying how fast the cancer grows, how deep the tumor is, and how far it has spread. Understanding all these things is an important step, because until your doctors known the type of cancer cells, they cannot create the right treatment plan for you.

    Depending on the depth of the tumor growth, your doctor will do a local, partial penectomy, preserving as much natural tissue as possible. However, sometimes the tumor is so big that a total penectomy is performed.

  • Chemotherapy. This medical treatment involves medications to kill cancer cells. This medication can be given orally or through an IV.

  • Radiation Therapy. Radiation therapy, the process of using high beams of radioactive energy aimed at tumors in order to kill them and halt their growth.

Why Multidisciplinary Teams Matter, No Matter What Stage

We create teams of the different specialists who focus on urologic cancers. What this means is that at every stage of your cancer journey, you will meet with doctors who only focus on the type of cancer you have. Together, with other specialized experts, they will decide on the best treatment for you, personalizing your treatment directly to your condition and lifestyle.

It is because of our multidisciplinary approach to cancer treatment, that we have been designated by the National Cancer Institute as a Comprehensive Cancer Center, one of only 51 in the country.