Emergency 24hr Hotline: +65 6535 8833

Penile Cancer

Penile cancer is a disease in which malignant cancer cells form in the penis. The penis is made up of several types of tissues, including skin, nerves, smooth muscle, and blood vessels, which in turn are made of lots of different types of cells. All these types of cells can turn into different forms of cancer, but almost all penile cancers start in the skin cells.

About 95 percent of penile cancer is squamous cell carcinoma. This cancer begins in the flat skin cells of the penis, usually on the foreskin or on the tip of the penis. Squamous cell penile cancer grows slowly and can be cured if found early. Other types of penile cancers are melanoma, basal cell carcinoma, adenocarcinoma, and sarcoma.

Penile Cancer Symptoms

The symptoms of penile cancer can be similar to other non-cancerous conditions. If you have any of the following symptoms, consult a urologist so that any conditions, cancer or otherwise, can be detected early and treated:

  • Skin changes in the foreskin or on the shaft, such as thickening, a reddish, velvety rash under the foreskin, a sore or ulcer that may bleed, discharge or bleeding under the foreskin, discolouration, or flat, blue or brown growths
  • Swelling at the end of the penis
  • Lumps beneath the skin in the groin

Causes of Penile Cancer

Conditions often linked to penile cancer are:

  • AIDS caused by an HIV infection
  • Human papillomavirus (HPV)
  • Tobacco use
  • Genetic factors
  • Bodily fluid trapped in the foreskin

Penile Cancer Diagnosis

To diagnose penile cancer, your doctor will first give you a physical exam and obtain a detailed medical history. Depending on the findings of the physical exam and history, additional tests may be needed.

A biopsy is the only way to get a definitive diagnosis. The doctor will take a tissue sample and send it to the lab for analysis. Imaging tests like MRIs, CT scans, and x-rays are performed, especially when the cancer is believed to have spread.

Penile Cancer Treatment Options

Penile cancer treatments can be in the form of surgery, radiation therapy, local treatment, and chemotherapy.

  • Surgery: The most common treatment for penile cancer is surgery to remove tumours. In early-stage cancer, the small tumour can be excised (cut out) without removing part of the penis. However, the larger and deeper the tumours are, the more likely it is that parts of the penis will need to be removed.
    • Partial or total penectomy is the best-known way to treat penile cancer that has grown deep inside the penis. The goal is to remove all the cancer. To do this, the surgeon needs to remove some of the normal-looking penis as well. The surgeon will try to leave as much of the shaft as possible. If only the end of the penis is removed, the operation is called partial penectomy. If not enough of the shaft can be saved for the man to urinate standing up without dribbling, a total penectomy will be done, where the entire penis is removed, including the roots that extend into the pelvis.
    • Lymph Node Surgery: If cancer has spread outside the penis, and the first lymph node that drains the tumour (called the sentinel node) contains cancer, a more extensive operation, known as a lymph node dissection or inguinal lymphadenectomy is performed.
  • Radiation Therapy: Radiation therapy may be used in addition to therapy. In some cases, radiation can be used instead of surgery.
  • Non-Surgical Local Treatments: In early-stage cancer, localised treatments like cryosurgery (freezing), laser ablation, and topical treatments may be used.
  • Chemotherapy: If penile cancer involves larger tumours, chemotherapy may be used to shrink them before surgery for easier removal. Chemotherapy can also be prescribed if cancer has spread from the penis to the lymph nodes or other organs.

Why should you choose Dr Colin Teo to perform penile cancer treatment?

Dr Colin Teo is the Founding Head of Khoo Teck Puat Hospital’s Urology Department, with years of experience in minimally invasive keyhole surgery, operating with precision surgical techniques. Many fellows have trained under his mentorship. He did a Fellowship in EndoLaparoscopy and Andrology at St James’ Hospital in Leeds, UK and was sponsored for a Senior Healthcare Medical Development Program (HMDP) in Advanced Laparoscopic and Robotic Surgery at University of Southern California (USC) Keck Hospital in Los Angeles, USA. Dr Teo is also the President of the Society for Men’s Health.

Seek recommendations on suitable treatment options for penile cancer with Colin Teo Urology. Contact us to book an appointment today.