Penile cancer, in comparison with prostate and testicular cancer, tends to be rare. In fact, roughly 550 men in the UK are diagnosed with penile cancer each year, with the disease commonly affecting men over 60 years of age.
According to Cancer Research UK, “if found early, the chances of curing it are very high”.
Here we speak to experts at charity Orchid about the key symptoms to look out for.
Orchid chief executive, Rebecca Porta, told HuffPost UK: “ Unlike other more common cancers, penile cancer is rare and many men feel embarrassed and unable to talk openly about it. This can lead to feelings of isolation at a time when support is vital.
“It is very important that men are aware of the warning signs and symptoms of the disease and that those with worrying symptoms seek medical advice as soon as possible.”
An early diagnosis, says Orchid, can be missed by healthcare professionals or can be mistaken for a sexually transmitted disease or a benign skin condition. This can result in delays in getting a correct diagnosis and starting life-saving treatment.
The exact cause of penile cancer is not known, however the following have been linked to an increased risk:
- Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) infection: HPV-related genital warts are associated with a six-fold risk of penile cancer. There has been a rapid increase in the incidence of genital warts in England and Wales in males from 1970 to 2009, with a 30% rise occurring during 2000–2009.
- Smoking: A man’s risk of developing cancer of the penis is greater if he smokes. It has been suggested that smoking may act as
- Uncircumcised penis: Penile cancer is much less common in men who have been circumcised soon after birth. Men who have not been circumcised may find it more difficult to pull back the foreskin enough to clean thoroughly underneath resulting in poor hygiene.
- A painless lump or ulcer on the penis that doesn’t heal
- A red rash under the foreskin
- Flat growths of brownish colour
- Difficulty in drawing back the foreskin (phimosis)
- Unusual smelling discharge from under the foreskin
- Unexplained change in colour of the skin
- Swollen lymph nodes in your groin area
For more information, visit the Orchid website.