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Penile cancer

Penile cancer is a fairly rare cancer that occurs most commonly in older men in their 60's and 70's. The commonest causes include human papilloma virus infection, lifelong poor hygiene, smoking and some chemical exposures.

Penile cancer can present in a number of ways, from small flat reddish areas on the head of the penis, to warty-like growths, to very large growths invading the penis itself. If you are at all concerned about a new or old lesion on the penis that is changing or enlarging, please ask your doctor or urologist to examine it as soon as possible.

There are a number of treatment options for penile cancer, depending on the size and stage of the lesion. Usually a biopsy is needed to make the diagnosis, and this can be done under a short anaesthetic. Sometimes the entire lesion can be removed if small. The biopsy results reveal the grade (how aggressive) and stage of the tumour (how deep it has invaded), and this determines further treatment. This can include microsurgery to remove small superficial lesions, laser ablation, or further surgical resection to remove deeper growths.

Sometimes, for more advanced cancers, the lymph nodes in the groin and pelvis may also need to be removed if is suspected that the cancer has spread to these regions. Once penile cancer has spread, the prognosis is generally poor. For this reason patients are advised always to consult their doctor in case of doubt.