Penile Cancer (Penile Carcinoma)

Penile cancer or penile carcinoma is mostly diagnosed in men over the age of sixty and describes the rare form of cancer of the external male genital organs. Penile cancer is one of the types of cancer that can be detected during screening and surgically cured.

Penile Cancer (Penile Carcinoma)

What is penile cancer?

In the case of penile cancer or penile carcinoma, tumors form on the penis and in particular on the glans and the foreskin. Penile cancer rarely spreads to the rest of the body via the bloodstream. Penile cancer is a slow-growing tumor that causes little or no symptoms in the early stages. See foodanddrinkjournal for Peters-Plus-Syndrom Dictionary Definitions.

However, if left untreated, it can affect the erectile tissue, prostate, urethra, and abdominal lymph nodes. Squamous cell carcinoma is characteristic of the type of cancer. This is a malignant tumor that develops in the top layer of skin and often looks like warts or ulcers.

Other types of skin cancer can also develop on the penis. A degeneration of the pigment cells, as occurs in malignant melanoma, is also possible as penile cancer.


In addition to age-related cell degeneration, a virus-related development is suspected in penile cancer. The focus is on HPV infections, which are the cause of some uterine cancers in women.

Some scientists assume that these human papillomaviruses can also cause penile cancer in men through infection. Since infectious diseases are generally considered to be the cause of penile cancer, poor hygiene is a risk factor for developing penile cancer. The foreskin sebum (smegma) that forms under the foreskin represents a breeding ground for diseases if it is not carefully removed in daily personal hygiene.

In addition, there are pathological changes in the foreskin such as narrowing of the foreskin. In the case of so-called phimosis, the cause of penile cancer due to a narrowing of the foreskin cannot be pushed back enough to clean the glans sufficiently.

Symptoms, Ailments & Signs

Penile carcinoma does not initially produce any clear symptoms. The patient initially feels tired and listless, occasionally there is slight pressure pain in the shaft region. In the further course, swelling and hardening form in the area of ​​the glans and foreskin. These skin lesions are initially rough and swollen before hardening and developing into lumps.

This can be accompanied by a foul-smelling discharge. Blood is rarely excreted. If the cancer grows and spreads to surrounding areas, it can often be felt in the groin area. The cancer can spread to other areas and cause other symptoms and symptoms depending on the area affected. Organ dysfunction, nerve disorders and neurological deficits are possible, but also swelling, ulcers and other skin changes.

If no treatment is given by then, penile cancer can be fatal. Growing carcinoma on the penis also leads to serious complications with urination and sexual intercourse. This significantly reduces the quality of life and well-being of those affected. A progressive cancer disease can also be recognized externally.

This results in a sickly appearance and the person affected noticeably loses weight. If penile cancer is treated early, the symptoms usually subside quickly. After a few weeks to months, the urinating process should have returned to normal.

Diagnosis & History

By palpating and looking at it, the examining doctor initially diagnoses a suspicion of penile cancer. A biopsy is used to determine what type of penile cancer it is, while other procedures are eventually used to determine the extent of the tumor.

The diagnosis is made via ultrasound examinations and tomography procedures. In the early stages, penile cancer only affects the glans and foreskin. Only later does it penetrate the body via the erectile tissue and the urethra. These arise when the pathologically swollen lymph nodes in the groin block the drainage of tissue fluid from the legs.

Rarely and in advanced stages, penile cancer can form metastases in more distant parts of the body, which can only be detected with imaging procedures.


Penile cancer (penis carcinoma) is a malignant tumor. Since the carcinoma usually develops very slowly, there are usually very good chances of recovery with early treatment. In over 90 percent of all cases, the patients treated early survive more than five years. However, because the disease usually only causes non-specific symptoms and often no pain, it can happen that the first treatment is given too late and sometimes even after metastases have appeared.

In these cases, the prognosis worsens noticeably. The penis often has to be completely amputated. Sometimes metastases are observed in the lymph nodes and other organs. If distant metastases occur, additional treatment with radiation and chemotherapy is required. However, in these cases a cure is no longer possible. The only thing that can still be delayed is the course of the cancer. If distant metastases are present, the five-year chance of survival is only five percent.

At this stage of the disease, only palliative measures can often help to reduce the suffering of the patient. In most cases, penile carcinoma is a squamous cell carcinoma, which progresses very slowly and can therefore be treated well even in later stages. In the presence of the rare melanoma, an extremely malignant skin cancer, the prognosis of the disease is often very poor even in the early stages of the disease.

When should you go to the doctor?

Swelling in the man’s intimate area is considered to be a cause for concern. If ulcers develop, if the usual appearance of the skin changes or if pain occurs, a doctor is needed. A reduced libido, erectile dysfunction and an increased urge to urinate should be examined and treated. Since penile cancer, if left untreated, can lead to the spread of cancer cells and thus premature death of the affected person, a doctor should be consulted as soon as the first discrepancies arise. If there are irregularities when going to the toilet, a sensitivity disorder in the intimate area or pain in the groin area, a doctor should be consulted.

Swelling of the lymph or palpable lumps in the man’s abdomen should be presented to a doctor. Other signs of a health irregularity are weight loss, behavioral problems and fatigue. Lower resilience, apathy, and general dissatisfaction are indicators that should be followed up. In the event of inner restlessness, general weakness and a continuous decrease in well-being, a visit to the doctor is advisable. A feeling of tightness in the abdomen, difficulties with locomotion and complications of digestion should be discussed with a doctor. A reduced quality of life, anxiety, insomnia and diarrhea are indications of an existing disease. Do the symptoms persist for a long time or do they increase in intensity and scope,

Treatment & Therapy

When treating penile cancer, it is crucial to detect the tumor as early as possible. Penile cancer is mainly surgically removed. Early detection is necessary to ensure that the procedure causes as little tissue damage as possible and that the penis can be preserved.

If the cancer of the penis has already reached the erectile tissue, the only option is often amputation of the entire penis, which is psychologically very stressful. At this stage, however, penile cancer can still be cured despite the amputation. A life-saving operation for penile cancer is only ruled out when the infestation has progressed further.

At this late stage, chemotherapy and radiation are no longer used to fight penile cancer, but are intended to relieve the symptoms. Because penile cancer affects the lymph nodes in the groin, fluid retention in the legs occurs as a symptom of a more advanced stage, which is reduced by radiation and lymphatic drainage.

Towards the end of the disease, penile cancer and its metastases cause painful conditions that are treated by individually dosed painkillers.

Outlook & Forecast

The prognosis for penile cancer can vary greatly. Decisive factors are the stage of the cancer, the presence of metastases, the chosen form of therapy, but also the age of the patient. If penile cancer is detected and treated early, the chances of recovery are very good at around 70 to 90 percent. As a rule, the penis can also be preserved.

However, most patients do not seek medical attention until the cancer has progressed and lymph node metastases have already formed. This significantly worsens the prognosis and is only around 46 percent. Amputation of the entire penis or parts of the penis is often necessary. Once distant metastases have formed, the prognosis is very poor.

The 5-year survival rate for affected patients is only 5 percent. In general, older sufferers have far worse prospects than younger ones. The choice of therapy is also important. Surgical removal of the metastases and the affected tissue on the penis is usually more successful than chemotherapy. In the advanced stage, additional radiation therapy is usually necessary, since healing will not occur without it.


Since early-stage penile cancer causes hardly any symptoms, regular check-ups for men over the age of 45 are the best way to detect the tumor early enough. In view of the strong involvement of infectious diseases, careful personal hygiene is one of the best measures to prevent the development. A foreskin circumcision to prevent penile cancer should also be considered.


Follow-up care is standard for every cancer. Doctors hope that this will enable them to detect the recurrence of a carcinoma at an early stage. Because even with penile cancer, a diagnosis in the early stages leads to the best chances of recovery. Scheduled investigations extend to at least the first five years after completion of initial therapy. They take place quarterly at the beginning.

Then the distance from appointment to appointment increases. The clinic where the initial treatment took place is usually responsible for aftercare. Depending on the outcome of the therapy, rehabilitation may be indicated. Here the patient finds his way back to everyday life under expert guidance. If necessary, medication is also discontinued.

A satisfactory quality of life and the exercise of one’s own sexuality are important goals of medical action after penile carcinoma. A discussion between doctor and patient is part of every examination. Specific questions should clarify the question of a new illness. The assessment of the prostate and the male organ also take place.

If necessary, imaging methods such as a CT, MRI and an ultrasound examination are used. If there is reasonable suspicion of a new disease, a tissue sample is also taken and examined under a microscope. This complex procedure is intended to prevent life-threatening complications from the outset.

You can do that yourself

Those affected are well advised to follow the doctor’s instructions if they have been diagnosed with penile cancer. Since the disease can lead to death, early and comprehensive medical care should take place. Already at the first irregularities and abnormalities in the intimate area, a doctor’s visit is advisable. Since this disease cannot be expected to heal itself, changes in the genital area should be discussed with a doctor as soon as possible.

In order to be able to rule out other diseases quickly, adequate contraception should always be used during sexual intercourse. In the case of changing sexual partners, the use of condoms is advisable. The condition is common in men over the age of 60. Participation in regular check-ups is recommended so that the disease can be diagnosed at an early stage. In particular, men whose sexual partner has suffered an infection from HPV should take part in check-ups. Since the virus is often the cause of later penile carcinoma, timely treatment with antibiotics against the viral disease is recommended.

The foreskin of the penis should be cleaned daily. After sexual intercourse, it is particularly important to remove the foreskin sebum so that no diseases develop. If the foreskin is narrowed, cleaning the external genitalia several times a day is advisable.