Causes, Symptoms, Treatment and Tests For Penis Cancer

Submitted on March 27, 2012

Penis cancer or penile cancer is cancerous growth that starts on the penis. A penis is part of the male reproductive system and cancer on the penis starts off as excess growth on the penis. It is not a very common type of cancer but occurs often in African countries.

Tests Recommended

The biggest medical test for penile cancer is a doctor visually examining the growth on the penis. A biopsy would be recommended to check such growths. A doctor will also get a detailed medical and personal history to examine the risk factors.

In penis cancer tests, there are two types of biopsies can be done. One is an incisional biopsy where only a part of the growth is removed and tested and another is the excisional biopsy where the entire growth is removed before it is sent for the testing.

The excisional biopsy might also be done with circumcision as per what the doctor recommends if the growth is on or around the foreskin.

Different imaging tests can also be used to identify penis cancer. Computed tomography (CT) is one such technology. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and an ultrasound are other technologies that help identify cancerous growths within the penis that are not visible to the naked eye.


Penis cancer causes are many but most of them could be pointed out as risks rather than specific causes. This would entail that there is only a risk of getting cancer in such cases, it is not absolutely sure that the condition will definitely lead to cancer. Men older in age are often more susceptible to penis cancer. Lifestyle choices like smoking, drinking and bad physical habits can also lead to weakened immune system which in turn adds to the risk of penis cancer. Circumcision or pulling the foreskin back is a healthy practice, but circumcision is not practiced by most men in the world and is also looked down upon by certain communities. Getting circumcised reduces the risk of penis cancer. Sometimes unclean foreskin results in accumulation of smegma under it. Not regularly cleaning this can also cause additional growth and has been a known cause of cancer too. Even an HPV infection can be a big risk factor to carry penis cancer. An HPV or a Human Papillomavirus is a skin infection transmitted during sexual intercourse.


Penis cancer has many symptoms and can be identified easily.

  • The first indication is usually a growth or sore on the penis. This needs to be immediately looked at as any form of sore on the penis is bad news. Even if it is not cancer, it could be any disease or even a sexually transmitted disease.
  • Often, accompanying this excess growth is bleeding and foul-smelling discharge.
  • Other symptoms of penis cancer include a rash on the penis and a change in color of the foreskin on the penis.
  • Painful Erection


Like all cancers, surgery is the most common penis cancer treatment. There can be different kinds of surgery. Mohs microsurgery is one such surgery where only the extra growth is removed. These tumor cells are sliced off with thin layers of skin. This surgery is done under a microscope. Besides this there is also the laser surgery that one could opt for. In this type of surgery, a laser beam makes cuts in the skin to remove the lesions. Cryosurgery is another form of surgery used in penis cancer treatments. In cryosurgery, the growth is frozen and then the cells are cut out. Circumcision is another form of surgery. Wide local excision involves surgery of the cancer and some of the normal tissue around it. Another form of surgery is penis amputation. This surgery is done when the cancer is not caught in time.

After any surgery during cancer treatments, some amount of radiation therapy or chemotherapy is always given. This is done in order to reduce chances of the cancer cells recurring. Clinical trials are also being conducted in complementary and alternative therapies for penis cancer. One such new treatment is the biologic theory. In this treatment, the body is equipped with better immunity and this encourages the body to fight cancer on its own. It is also known as immune therapy.

Another new treatment method is with radiosensitizers. Radiosensitizers are drugs that can survive radiation therapy. More cancer cells can be killed when this treatment is used in conjunction with radiation. Sentinel lymph node biopsy is a biopsy that makes it easier to track the tumor. The biopsy is done with the help of a radioactive dye. The dye marking makes it easier to locate and remove the tumor. There are also numerous clinical trials that continuously happen in order to make cancer retrieval and cure one more step better. You can always ask your doctor or local hospital about such research studies and whether you can participate in them. There are even trial registries in the Unites States of America where you can register for participation.