Penile Cancer

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Early Detection, Diagnosis, and Staging TOPICS

Signs and symptoms of penile cancer

In most cases, the first sign of penile cancer is a change in the skin of the penis. The skin may change color, become thicker, or tissue may build up in one area. Some men might notice an ulcer (sore) or a lump on the penis. These are most likely to be found on the glans (the head of the penis) or foreskin, but could also develop on the shaft. The sore or lump is not usually painful, but it can be in some cases.

Sometimes the cancer looks like a reddish, velvety rash, small crusty bumps, or flat growths that are bluish-brown. It may not be visible unless the foreskin is pulled back. A persistent discharge (drainage), often with a bad smell, may also be present beneath the foreskin.

Swelling at the end of the penis, especially when the foreskin is constricted, is another common sign that penile cancer may be present.

If the cancer spreads from the penis, it most often travels first to lymph nodes in the groin. This can make those lymph nodes swell. Lymph nodes are collections of immune system cells that fight infection. Normally, they are bean-sized and can barely be felt at all. If they are swollen, the lymph nodes may easily be felt as lumps under the skin.

These signs and symptoms don't always mean cancer -- they can also be caused by benign conditions. For example, infection can cause swollen lymph nodes in the groin area. Still, if you have any of these signs or symptoms, go see your doctor right away. Remember, the sooner you receive a correct diagnosis, the sooner you can start treatment and the more effective it is likely to be.

Last Medical Review: 12/06/2013
Last Revised: 01/09/2015