Men's Health

Penile cancer

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Penile cancer is a rare type of cancer that occurs generally on the skin of the penis and most commonly affects men over the age of 50.

There are several types of penile cancer, depending on the type of cell the cancer develops from.

Symptoms of penile cancer

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 4 weeks
  • persistent bleeding from the penis or from under the foreskin
  • a foul-smelling discharge
  • New 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 non-resolving rash on the penis

If you experience these symptoms, or have any concern it's important to see your doctor as soon as possible. It's unlikely they'll be caused by penile cancer, but they may need to be investigated.

Preventing penile cancer

It isn't always possible to prevent penile cancer, but you can reduce your chances of getting it.

One of the main ways you can reduce your chances of developing penile cancer is to give up smoking if you smoke.

It's also important to maintain good penis hygiene to prevent the bacterial and viral infections that can increase the risk of penile cancer.

This is easier if you were circumcised as a child, but there are steps you can take if you haven't been circumcised.

Simple penis hygiene can include:

  • using condoms to reduce the risk of catching human papilloma virus (HPV)
  • regularly washing your penis with warm water, including under the foreskin

There's little evidence to suggest that being circumcised as an adult will reduce your chances of developing penile cancer.

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