Penile cancer is a rare form of cancer that affects the penis. Penile cancer typically develops in the foreskin of the penis, however it can grow in the glans and the head of the penis, although it is less common.
It is believed that several risk factors can cause penile cancer. One common risk factor for cancers across the board is age. Another common risk factor is past history of smoking. Other risk factors could be certain STIs, specifically HPV, and if the penis is uncircumcised. Inflammation or trauma could also potentially cause penile cancer.
Typically, penile cancer causes a change in appearance of the skin on the penis. Any change in the appearance should be discussed with a doctor. Some of the potential warning signs are a small painless wart, redness, discoloration, a rash, smelly discharge coming from under the foreskin, or a lesion that will not heal. If the cancer has spread, you may also experience swollen lymph nodes in the groin. Since many of these signs can indicate a multitude of different conditions, and may be nothing at all, it is important to get a professional diagnosis.
A doctor will first examine the changed skin of the penis, and if any of the changes raise concern, they will likely order a skin biopsy or a fine needle aspiration to collect cells to examine for abnormalities. If those results come back positive, additional tests may be ordered to assess whether or not the cancer has spread. These tests include MRI, CT or CAT scans, PET scans, and ultrasound.