In the UK, around 550 men are diagnosed with cancer of the penis each year. It most commonly affects men over 60 years of age. The cause of penile cancer isn’t known, but certain risk factors can increase the chances of getting it including smoking, repeated bacterial and viral infections, and being over the age of 60. You can find out more about the risk factors here.

There is little evidence to suggest that being circumcised as an adult will reduce your chances of developing penile cancer.

Symptoms of penile cancer

The signs of penile cancer include:

  • A growth or sore on the penis that doesn’t heal within four weeks
  • Bleeding from the penis or from under the foreskin
  • A foul smelling discharge
  • Thickening of the skin of the penis or foreskin that makes it difficult to draw back the foreskin (phimosis)
  • A change in the colour of the skin of the penis or foreskin
  • A rash on the penis

Some men find it embarrassing to talk about these sorts of symptoms, but if any of the above apply to you, or if you have any concerns about similar symptoms, it is essential that you see your doctor.

How is penile cancer diagnosed?

If your GP suspects penile cancer, they may refer you to a Urologist, who will ask about your symptoms and check for any physical signs of penile cancer. Blood tests may be carried out to check your general health and the number of blood cells. You may need to have a biopsy. A small tissue sample will be removed so it can be examined under a microscope for cancerous cells.

Treatment of penile cancer

Treatment for penile cancer will depend on the size of the affected area and the rate at which the cancer has spread.

The main treatments for developed penile cancer are:

  • Radiotherapy, which is where high-energy rays are used to destroy the cancer cells
  • Chemotherapy, which involves the use of chemical agents which are toxic to cancer cells, destroying them and preventing them from spreading to different areas. This can be given by injection or in tablet form
  • Surgery, which will involve removing the cancerous cells and possibly some of the surrounding tissue