Overview of Penile Cancer

Penile cancer is cancer of the penis, the male sex organ, and it is not as common as other forms of cancer. Penile cancer can develop in people aged 60 years or older, in people that have phimosis (the foreskin cannot be pulled back over the glans), people that have poor personal hygiene, people that have too many sexual partners and people that consistently use tobacco products. The symptoms of penile cancer include redness, irritation, or the development of a sore on the penis. Another symptom of penile cancer includes the development of a lump on the penis itself. A physical exam, the history of the patient, or a biopsy can be used to determine whether or not a person has penile cancer.

The chance of recovery and how to determine the treatment options depends on the prognosis of the disease. The prognosis is determined by the stage of the cancer, the location and the size of the tumor, and whether the cancer was just diagnosed or is recurring. There are three main tests performed to determine how far along the cancer has become and those tests are an MRI, a CT Scan, and an Ultrasound. An MRI, short for magnetic resonance imaging, uses radio waves to make a series of pictures of the patient’s body. A CT Scan is a procedure that makes a series of pictures of the body from different angles. An Ultrasound is a procedure in which high energy sound waves are bounced off internal tissues or organs which then make echoes. The echoes then form a picture of the body’s tissues known as a sonogram.

There are six common stages of penile cancer. Those stages include Stage 0, Stage I, Stage II, Stage III, Stage IV and recurrent penile cancer. Stage O penile cancer is when abnormal cells are found on the surface of the skin of the penis. These abnormal cells might form into cancer and spread to other parts of the body but they might not spread at all. Stage O penile cancer is also referred to as carcinoma in situ. Stage I penile cancer is when the cancer has formed and spread to connective tissue just under the skin of the penis.

Stage II penile cancer is when the cancer has spread to the tissue of just under the skin of the penis and to one lymph node in the groin or erectile tissue and may have spread to one lymph node in the groin. Stage III penile cancer is when the cancer has spread to the connective tissue or erectile tissue of the penis and to more than one lymph node on one or both sides of the groin or has spread to the urethra or the prostate. Stage IV penile cancer is when the cancer has spread to tissues near the penis and may have spread to lymph nodes in the groin or the pelvis or has spread to anywhere in or near the penis or to other distant parts of the body. Recurring penile cancer is cancer that has gone away and returned again. The cancer can come back in the penis or in other parts of the body.

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