Penile cancer is rare in the United States, affecting about one in 100,000 men, and this rarity is attributed to the practice of circumcision at birth. Men in South American countries and in India are more likely to develop this cancer. Penile cancer develops slowly and, if discovered early, can be cured. The cancer grows along the shaft of the penile or the head or foreskin. Men generally do not seek medical help even if they experience symptoms until the cancer has developed to a later stage.
It is important that you recognize the symptoms and get treated as soon as possible. Most penis growths are skin cancers or squamous cell carcinomas or can be melanomas. Sometimes, cancer can grow in the deep tissues of the penile and spread to the groin or pelvic area. If the cancer is confined to the penis itself it can be cured but the risk increases once it spreads to the pelvis or other parts of the body. Then a penectomy or partial or total removal of the penis may be required.
The risk factor for penile cancer includes: smoking, you are at risk if you chew or smoke tobacco; age, if you are in the age group of 50 to 70 years you are at risk though some cases do occur in the younger than 50 age group; if you have contracted the sexually transmitted disease of human papilloma virus or HPV you are at greater risk of penis cancer; the risk increases if you have not been circumcised at birth or have had it done at puberty or in adulthood; poor hygiene, which leads to the buildup of smegma that is made up of bacteria and body oils.
Penis cancer first shows up as a lump or lesion or wart-like growth on the penile. There can be a reddish rash or unhealing open sore, accompanied by unrelenting smelly discharge under the foreskin. If you notice these symptoms then consult a doctor immediately. You will be asked to undergo a biopsy so the cancer can be identified.
The treatment for penile cancer depends on what stage it is at. Ask your doctor what stage the cancer is at and whether surgery is advised and how extensive it might be, and whether the lymph nodes will be removed; also find out if your sexual partner needs to be tested for HPV.
If the growth is small then laser therapy and radiation are advocated. Sometimes surgery is advised in which a partial or full penectomy may be required. Surgeons will try as much as possible to maintain the sexual and urinary functions. But if a total penectomy is carried out penile reconstruction is possible, though this is rare.
If you have not been circumcised at birth or later then make sure you keep the area of the foreskin clean and check it regularly. Seek medical attention immediately if you notice any abnormalities in the penis and a cure may be possible.
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