Penile Cancer

Definition of Penile Cancer

Penile cancer is a disease in which cancer cells form in the tissues of the penis.

Symptoms of Penile Cancer

Penile cancer may begin as a blister on the head, foreskin, or shaft of the penis. It may manifest as a wart-like growth that discharges blood or foul-smelling liquid. The patient might notice:

  • Penile lesions
  • Lumps or ulcers
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Discharge from wound

Causes of Penile Cancer

Human Papilloma Virus (HPV): A common infection that is passed from one person to another by means of sexual contact.

Increased age: Most cases of penile cancer are in men over the age of 50 years old. Cases of patients under 40 are not as common.

Smoking: Men who smoke may actually be more likely to develop penile cancer. Researchers believe that the chemicals in cigarette smoke may damage the DNA of cells in the penis, increasing the risk of developing cancer.

Weakened Immune System: The immune system exists to fight infection and disease in the body. If a patient has a weakened immune system, they may be at higher risk of cancer in general, which includes penile cancer.

Psoriasis: Psoriasis is a chronic skin condition treated with a combination of light therapy and a drug called psoralen. This treatment is known as PUVA (psoralen and ultraviolet A) and can also be used as a cancer treatment. However, men who have had PUVA appear to have an increased risk of penile cancer.

Treatment of Penile Cancer

Mohs surgery: A surgery in which visible lesions on the skin are removed in several steps. First, a thin layer of cancerous tissue is removed. Then, thin layers of tissue are examined one a time to check for cancer cells and removed if necessary. The process continues until the tissue viewed under a microscope shows no remaining cancer, thus leaving as much healthy tissue as possible intact.

Laser surgery: A surgical procedure in which a laser beam is used as a knife to make bloodless cuts in tissue or to remove a surface lesion such as a tumor.

Cryosurgery: A treatment that uses an instrument to freeze and destroy abnormal tissue. This type of treatment is also known as cryotherapy.

Circumcision: Surgery to remove part or the entire foreskin of the penis.

Wide local excision: Surgery in which the cancer and some normal tissue around it are removed.

Amputation: Surgery to remove part or the entire penis. If part of the penis is removed, it is known as a partial penectomy. If the entire penis is removed, it is then referred to as a total penectomy.

Inguinal lymph node dissection: Removal of unilateral or bilateral inguinal lymph nodes; reserved for advanced cases.

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