Penis Cancer: 6 Facts About Symptoms, Causes and Warnings

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Rare, this disease usually affects men over 50 years of age and, as with other malignant neoplasms, early diagnosis increases the chances of cure.

Is malignant neoplasm (cancer) of the penis common?

No. In Brazil, for example, penile neoplasia accounts for 2% of diagnoses of all types of cancer identified in men and is more frequent in the North and Northeast regions. In the United States, according to the American Cancer Society, this number represents 1% of diagnoses of malignant neoplasms in men. The same American entity predicts that, in 2023, around 2,000 new cases will be diagnosed in the country.

Symptoms of Penile Cancer: Main Warning Signs

Getting to know your own body to the point of noticing things that didn’t happen before is a powerful resource for detecting health problems. In the case of penile cancer, a persistent wound or ulcer is the first warning sign, according to the Ministry of Health, which also recommends attention to the following symptoms:

  • Tumoration in the head of the penis (glans) and in the skin that covers it, and in the body of the penis;
  • Presence of white secretion (smegma);
  • Abnormal enlargement of the tissue covering the head of the penis;
  • Lumps in the groin, which may signal disease progression.

If a man notices any of the above signs, he should see a doctor. In the case of wounds, a small fragment is removed and sent for laboratory analysis.

Is it true that inadequate intimate hygiene is associated with the onset of penile cancer?

Yes. Daily cleaning of the penis with soap and water prevents the accumulation of secretions that can lead to the proliferation of bacteria and infections. It is precisely to improve hygiene that the removal of the foreskin, the skin that covers the glans, should be considered.

Are HPV and penile cancer related?

Yes. Infection with HPV (Human Papillomavirus, a virus that infects the skin and oral, genital or anal mucosa) is sexually transmitted and can be responsible for the appearance of tumors not only in the penis, but also in the uterus and anus.

According to data from Cancer Research UK, about 60% of cases of penile cancer are related to HPV infection. Likewise, HIV increases the likelihood of developing penile cancer. Therefore, the use of condoms is essential, even during oral sex.

Causes of penile cancer: What are the main factors that can favor its emergence?

In addition to inadequate hygiene habits and HPV infection, there are other factors that favor the onset of the disease. Penile cancer is more common in men with low socioeconomic conditions and/or education precisely because of lack of information and possibilities to protect themselves against the disease. Narrowing of the foreskin is another risk factor, as men who have not undergone circumcision, surgery to remove the foreskin (skin that covers the glans, the “head” of the penis), are more likely to develop penile cancer. , smoking also makes men more susceptible to the disease, a risk that increases if the smoker is a carrier of HPV. Likewise, HIV carriers are also at greater risk, not only because of low immunity, but also because smoking and HPV infection are two common conditions among men living with HIV.

Is penile amputation the only treatment?

No. Early detection greatly reduces this risk. Amputation is only performed in more severe cases. It all depends on what stage the tumor is at. In the initial stages, surgical removal of the lesion and radiotherapy sessions or even chemotherapy are usually the therapeutic approaches adopted.

Check out the Understanding Cancer series to read all the texts we produce about the most common forms of the disease, learn about the topic and find out what is true or false when talking about this very important subject.


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