Penis cancer

How to determine if you have penile cancer!

Penis cancer is extremely rare and occurs mainly in older men. Nevertheless, rapid treatment is necessary to prevent cancer from spreading. In our guide, you can find out what penis cancer is, which causes are responsible for it and how you recognize the disease. In addition, we will tell you how treatment takes place.

peniskrebs hilfePeniscan – What is it?

You’ve never heard of penile cancer? This is not surprising because this form of cancer is very rare. Less than 1% of all cancers are penile cancers. The affected men are predominantly over 60 years old. Only about 20% of men are younger. Penis cancer often develops on the glans and the foreskin. If the tumors are not treated, they can spread to the prostate, urethra and erectile tissue. In later stages, they can also migrate into the lymph nodes of the groin and pelvis or spread via the bloodstream to the skeleton or lungs.

What are the chances of treatment?

The treatment chances are very good if the cancer is detected early and the lymph nodes are not yet affected. In this case, it is usually possible for the doctor to remove all malignant cell changes. The longer cancer can grow undetected, the further it can spread and the more difficult it is to cure.


What causes lead to penis cancer?

The causes of penile cancer have not yet been clarified. However, research has shown that there are connections with certain factors.

  • Hygiene: Good hygiene is a basic prerequisite for preventing penile cancer. Researchers have found that the so-called foreskin sebum, which accumulates under the foreskin, promotes the development of tumors in the penis. The more often the penis is cleaned, the less sebum can accumulate and the lower the risk of penile cancer.
  • Crimping of the foreskin: With a constriction of the foreskin, it is not possible to push back the foreskin completely. Accordingly, hygiene is made more difficult and more foreskin sebum can form, which favors the development of penis cancer.
  • Chronic inflammation: Chronic inflammation of the foreskin or glans may also contribute to the development of penile cancer.
  • HPV infections: Infection with the sexually transmitted human papillomavirus can lead to a wart-like change of the genital skin and is associated with the development of penis tumors. HPV can also be the cause of balanitis.
  • Mucous membrane change: If you notice a whitish change of the mucous membrane, this can be a precursor of penis cancer.
  • Smoking: Smoking is a risk factor for this form of cancer.
  • High age: Cancer of the penis third predominantly in men over 60 years on.

Symptoms of penis cancer – How to recognize the disease!

It’s not that easy to detect penile cancer. Often it manifests itself by flat redness, which increase with time. Hardening under the foreskin or swelling can also be an indication of penile cancer. In most cases the hardenings are painless but still palpable. If the changes widen, the skin on the penis sometimes even assumes a cauliflower-like surface. Bleeding or malodorous discharge can also occur. The symptoms do not always occur simultaneously. So it is quite possible that one man suffers from one or two symptoms, while another man with penis cancer has all symptoms.

krebshilfe penisIf a doctor is suspected – this is the diagnosis

If you notice suspicious skin changes in your penis, it is best to directly consult your doctor. So you play it safe. After all, it is extremely important that the cancer is detected early so that a cure is still possible.


The doctor will first ask you about your complaints and the duration of the problems. In the next step he will palpate your penis and check whether the lymph nodes in your groin are swollen. A tissue sample should then clarify whether a tumor is actually present or not. The sample must be examined microscopically.


If it turns out that you actually suffer from penile cancer, you must automatically expect further examinations. The first step is to check whether the tumour has already spread and affected other organs. The cancer is then divided into a stage, which provides information on how far the disease has progressed. The international TNM classification is used for this classification. T stands for tumor, N for lymph node infestation and M for metastases.


These stages exist:

T1: The cancer is superficial and infiltrates only connective tissue.

T2: The penis carcinoma has spread to the erectile tissue.

T3: The tumor has spread to the urethra.

T4: Cancer has spread to other neighboring areas of the body


N0: The lymph nodes are not affected

N1: A lymph node is affected

N2: Metastases are found in several inguinal lymph nodes

N3: The tumor is already located in the pelvic lymph nodes or grows out of an affected lymph node.


M0: No metastases have formed yet

M1: Metastases have already formed


How is penile cancer treated?

How the cancer is treated depends on how far it has progressed. Radiotherapy and chemotherapy are usually not used because they do not really help in this particular case. If the tumor is limited to the foreskin, a simple circumcision is usually sufficient. Penis cancer at an early stage can be removed local with the laser. If it is already more advanced, an amputation may be necessary. It is not always necessary to remove the entire penis. Sometimes a partial amputation is sufficient. The lymph nodes in the groin are also removed. Afterward, the legs may swell, as the lymph cannot drain properly as a result of the procedure.

This post is also available in: German