Can Penile Cancer Be Found Early?

There are no widely recommended screening tests for penile cancer, but many penile cancers can be found early.

Almost all penile cancers start in the skin, so they are often noticed early in the course of the disease. Cancers that start under the foreskin may not be seen as quickly, especially if a man has phimosis (constriction of the foreskin). Some penile cancers may cause symptoms that could also be caused by a disease other than cancer.

Even if a man sees or feels something abnormal, he may not recognize it as something that needs medical attention right away. You should see a doctor if you find a new growth or other abnormality of your penis, even if it is not painful. Things like warts, blisters, sores, ulcers, white patches, or other abnormal areas need to be looked at by a doctor. Most are not cancer, but they may be caused by an infection or some other condition that needs to be treated.

Unfortunately, some men avoid going to the doctor for lesions (abnormalities) on their penis. Many men with penile lesions put off seeking treatment for a year or more after they first notice the problem.

If a cancer is found early, it can often be removed with little or no damage to the penis. But if it is not diagnosed until later, part of or all of the penis may need to be removed to treat the cancer. It is also more likely to require other, more invasive treatments, and may even be life threatening.

The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team
Our team is made up of doctors and master's-prepared nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as journalists, editors, and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.

Last Medical Review: March 30, 2015 Last Revised: February 9, 2016

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