Penile cancer has increased more than 20% in the last 30 years, but do you know the signs to look out for?
While most men know all about prostate and testicular cancer symptoms, many people don’t have the same awareness penile cancer.
Yet around 550 men are diagnosed with the life-threatening cancer in the UK each year. It most commonly affects men over 60 years of age, but can be found in males of all ages.
Experts believe men who carry the human papilloma virus (HPV) have an increased risk of developing penile cancer.
Studies have found that almost 47% with penile cancer also have an HPV infection – which is the virus that causes genital warts.
Over the past 30 years the number of cases has risen by more than 20%, possibly due to changes in s*xual practices.
Cancer Research UK said 95% of penile cancers develop from slow growing squamous cell carcinomas so catching penile cancer early is key to recovery, yet many men don’t know the sings to look out for.
Signs and symptoms of penile cancer
You should be aware of any abnormalities or signs of penile cancer, including:
1. A growth or sore on the penis that doesn’t heal within four weeks
2. Bleeding from the penis or from under the foreskin
3. A foul smelling discharge
4. Thickening of the skin of the penis or foreskin that makes it difficult to draw back the foreskin (phimosis)
5. A Change in the colour of the skin of the penis or foreskin
6. A rash on the penis
If you experience these symptoms, it’s important that they’re checked by your GP as soon as possible.
It’s unlikely they’ll be caused by cancer of the penis, but they need to be investigated.
Rob Cornes, male cancer nurse, from Orchid, the UK’s only male specific cancer charity, said: “We know that men with the symptoms of penile cancer can feel embarrassed and often go into denial and are reluctant to seek help or advice.
“Often when they call the helpline we can reassure them and if necessary encourage them to seek a GP consultation.”
Dr Peter Branney, senior lecturer in social psychology and author of the latest edition of International Journal of Urological Nursing, spoken about the effects in his latest study.
He said: “The standard treatment for penile cancer is surgical excision of the primary tumour, which means that sexual and urinary functioning can be impaired.
“There is evidence of reduced quality of life in up to 40 per cent of patients; whilst one clinic has found signs of psychiatric morbidity and post-traumatic stress in almost half of a sample of patients.”
What causes penile cancer?
The cause of penile cancer isn’t known, but certain risk factors can increase your chances of getting it, including the following:
1. Men who carry the human papilloma virus (HPV)
2. Age is also a risk factor for cancer of the penis – it’s more common in men over 60
3. Smoking is the most significant lifestyle factor associated with penile cancer
4. If you suffer from conditions that affect the penis, such as phimosis
How is penile cancer diagnosed?
Your GP will ask you about any symptoms you have and when they occur. They’ll also examine your penis for signs of penile cancer.
If they suspect penile cancer, they may refer you to a specialist – usually a urologist.
The specialist will ask about your symptoms, they may also take a blood test and carry out a biopsy.
How is penile cancer treated?
In cases of carcinoma in situ (CIS), where only the skin cells of the penis are affected, patients will be treated using chemotherapy cream or laser surgery.
The main treatments for more advanced penile cancer are:
For more information please go to nhs.uk/penilecancer