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Penile Cancer Symptoms, Causes, Treatment, and Prevention

Medically reviewed by Regina Victoria Boyles, MD · Pediatrics

Written by Jan Alwyn Batara · Updated Dec 23, 2022

    Penile Cancer Symptoms, Causes, Treatment, and Prevention

    When people hear the word cancer, they usually think of the more common ones, such as breast cancer, lung cancer, or skin cancer. But did you know that penile cancer also exists? What exactly is this form of cancer, and what are the different penile cancer symptoms to watch out for?

    What is Penile Cancer?

    As the name suggests, penile cancer is a form of cancer that mainly affects the penis. The exact cause of penile cancer is yet to be determined, but certain conditions such as having HPV and smoking are possible risk factors1.

    For the most part, penile cancer affects men aged 50 and older. It can also affect younger men, though the chances of it happening is very rare.  In addition, uncircumcised men are also more prone to developing penile cancer. This is because this particular cancer usually develops in the skin under the foreskin, as well as the head or glans of the penis2.

    Compared to other forms of cancer, penile cancer is very rare. However, it’s still a good idea to be informed about the possible penile cancer symptoms, and how to prevent it.

    Penile Cancer Symptoms

    The symptoms of penile cancer vary from person to person. In fact, some persons with penile cancer don’t even exhibit any symptoms, especially during the early stages.

    Here is a list of some of the possible symptoms of this type of cancer3:

    • Sores on the penis, particularly around the head or the tip, and under the foreskin
    • Swollen lymph nodes in the groin area
    • Swelling in the penis
    • Foul-smelling discharge under the foreskin
    • Blood coming from the penis
    • Changes in the surface/skin of the penis, such as thickening or changes in color

    If you notice any of these symptoms, visit your doctor as soon as possible. Know that while these symptoms don’t necessarily mean you have cancer, these are abnormal symptoms and should be consulted with your doctor regardless.

    How Is It Treated?

    In terms of treatment, there are many options available for persons with penile cancer. In addition, early detection greatly increases successful treatment.

    If the tumor is on the superficial layer of the skin, then a cream may be used to treat cancer. External beam radiation therapy can also be used to kill off the cancer cells in the penis4.

    For larger but still relatively small tumors, or if the tumor is under the skin, surgery might be required to take out the cancerous mass. For even bigger tumors, more tissue might need to be removed through surgery.

    Since the penis is close to the lymph nodes of the groin, there is a chance that the cancer can spread to those lymph nodes. If that happens, draining or removing the lymph nodes completely might be done in order to prevent the spread of cancer throughout the body.

    In more advanced cases, chemotherapy might be required, as well as removing the penis completely.

    What Are the Survival Rates for Penile Cancer?

    The survival rates for this form of cancer varies depending on how early it is detected, and how early treatment starts5.

    Based on the statistics, there is an 80% 5-year relative survival rate for localized cases. This means that there is an 80% chance that the patient will live for at least 5 years after their diagnosis.

    For regional cases, or cancer that has grown beyond the original tumor area, the survival rate is at 50%. For distant cases, or cases where cancer has spread to distant organs, the survival rate is only 9%.

    When combined, the survival rate for penile cancer is around 65%. However, early detection and treatment significantly increase the chances of survival, so it’s important to be aware of penile cancer symptoms to watch out for.

    Learn more about Cancer here.


    Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

    Medically reviewed by

    Regina Victoria Boyles, MD


    Written by Jan Alwyn Batara · Updated Dec 23, 2022

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