The penis is an important organ in a human male that is necessary for copulation and for passing out urine. Penile cancer is the growth of abnormal cells that start from the skin of the penis and works its way into the penis. It is a very deadly condition and can spread to other areas of the body.

Penile cancer is characterized by skin changes on the penis, swelling of the penis, and the formation of lumps under the skin in the groin. When detected early, penile cancer is quite curable. Be that as it may, sexually transmitted infections contribute to penile cancer.

The most common sexually transmitted infection that causes penile cancer is the human papillomavirus (HPV). About 50% of men who are suffering from penile cancer have HPV infection. The rate of increase in the cases of penile cancer in the United States is becoming an increasing source of concern.

Risk Factors for Penile Cancer

Men who are most likely to suffer from penile cancer are:

  • men who have been diagnosed with human papillomavirus,
  • men who started having sex early in their lives,
  • men who have many sexual partners,
  • men who practice unprotected sex,
  • those who have a history of sexually transmitted diseases,
  • men who are uncircumcised,
  • men circumcised as adults,
  • men who practice poor personal hygiene,
  • men with phimosis, a condition where the foreskin of the penis becomes tight and difficult to take back,
  • older men,
  • and men with AIDS

Symptoms of Penile Cancer

  • Sore on the penis that is often painless and doesn’t heal after 4 weeks
  • Penile bleeding
  • Foul smelling penile discharge
  • Change in the color of the skin of the penis
  • In uncircumcised men, difficulty in pulling foreskin backward
  • Burning under the foreskin
  • Abdominal pain
  • Pain in the bones
  • Feeling of tiredness
  • Lumps in the groin
  • Weight loss
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Penile cancer may be benign (not malignant), pre-malignant, and malignant. If left undiagnosed or untreated, cancer could spread and that is very deadly. Penile cancer does not come with known symptoms at its earliest stage and so may not affect a man’s erection. This makes it go unnoticed, and when symptoms finally show forth, cancer must have invaded the tissues of the penis.

Penile cancer is rarely found in circumcised men. A way of preventing penile cancer is by getting a male child circumcised as a baby. Getting circumcised as an adult as a way of preventing penile cancer is needless. Women who have partners suffering from penile cancer are most likely to have cervical cancer caused by the human papillomavirus.

Complications Arising From Penile Cancer

In penile cancer, complications become fatal within 2 years if cancer is left untreated. Some of the complications are:

  • Death of the skin tissues of the penis
  • Chronic infection
  • Cancer can spread to the lungs, liver, bones or brain at the last stage of the disease
  • Death from infection and bleeding

Diagnosis of Penile Cancer

The patient is generally evaluated for the detection of any problem apart from penile cancer. Magnetic Resonance Imaging and Ultrasonography are used in detecting the invasion of cancer into the penis. A biopsy of the lesion on the penis can be taken to be viewed under the machine.

Treatment of Penile Cancer

The aim of treating penile cancer is to prevent it from escalating and invading the tissues of the penis. This can be achieved when a diagnosis is done early and treatment starts early as well. Depending on the stage of cancer, certain treatment options can help in the management and treatment of penile cancer.

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When no invasion of surrounding tissues has happened, cancer can be treated with topical medications. Radiation therapy is recommended for a selected number of patients because the therapy could increase risks of complications leading to the blocking of the urethra and death of the penis without treating cancer. An advantage of radiation therapy is that it preserves a man's ability to make sperm.

Other treatment options are:

  • Chemotherapy
  • Surgical procedure
  • Lymphadenectomy

Prevention of Penile Cancer

Primarily, the prevention of penile cancer starts with getting protected from the human papillomavirus. This virus has been linked with penile cancer in men, and cervical cancer in women. Getting vaccinated with the HPV vaccine as a boy is the best protection. Also, getting circumcised increases one’s chances of not getting the virus.

Most importantly, a sexually active man should get himself screened for HPV infection on a regular basis. Limiting the number of sexual partners and practicing safe sex with condom minimizes the risk of having penile cancer. Finally, practicing good hygiene is essential in the prevention of penile cancer.