Penile cancer is a rare type of cancer that occurs on the skin of the penis or within the penis. However, improvements in diagnosis, staging and treatment have led to a similar reduction in the number of deaths resulting from the condition.
SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS
You should be aware of any abnormalities or signs of penile cancer, including:
- a growth or sore on the penis that doesn't heal within four weeks
- bleeding from the penis or from under the foreskin
- a foul-smelling discharge
- thickening of the skin of the penis or foreskin that makes it difficult to draw back the foreskin (phimosis)
- a change in the colour of the skin of the penis or foreskin
- 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.
Any delay in diagnosing penile cancer could reduce the chances of successful treatment.
TYPES OF PENILE CANCER
The penis is made up of many different types of tissue. The type of penile cancer you have will depend on the type of cell the cancer developed from.
The most common types of penile cancer include:
- squamous cell penile cancer – which accounts for more than 90% of cases and starts in the cells that cover the surface of the penis
- carcinoma in situ (CIS) – a particular type of squamous cell cancer where only the cells in the skin of the penis are affected and it hasn't spread any deeper
- adenocarcinoma – cancer that starts in the glandular cells of the penis that produce sweat
- melanoma of the penis – where the cancer develops in the skin cells that give the skin its colour
CAUSES OF PENILE CANCER
The cause of penile cancer isn't known, but certain risk factors can increase your chances of getting it.
Men who carry the human papilloma virus (HPV) have an increased risk of developing penile cancer, which is the virus that causes genital warts.
Studies have found that almost 5 out of 10 men (47%) with penile cancer also have an HPV infection.
Age is also a risk factor for cancer of the penis. The condition rarely affects men under 40 years of age, and most commonly occurs in men aged over 60.
Smoking is the most significant lifestyle factor associated with penile cancer. Chemicals found in cigarettes can damage cells in the penis, which increases your risk of getting the condition.
Conditions that affect the penis, such as phimosis, which makes the foreskin difficult to retract, increase your chances of developing infections such as balanitis.
Repeated infections are linked to a higher risk of developing some types of penile cancer, because they can weaken your immune system.
DIAGNOSING PENILE CANCER
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.
In 2015, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) published guidelines to help GPs recognise the signs and symptoms of penile cancer and refer people for the right tests faster. To find out if you should be referred for further tests for suspected penile cancer, read the NICE 2015 guidelines on Suspected Cancer: Recognition and Referral.
If your GP suspects penile cancer, they may refer you to a specialist – usually a urologist (a doctor who specialises in conditions that affect the urinary system and genitals).
The specialist will ask about your symptoms and check your medical history. They may also check for any physical signs of penile cancer.
A blood test may be carried out to check your general health and the number of blood cells.
To confirm a diagnosis of penile cancer, you may need to have a biopsy. A small tissue sample will be removed so it can be examined under a microscope for cancerous cells.
HOMOEOPATHIC TREATMENT OF PENILE CANCER
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