Signs and Symptoms of Penile Cancer

The signs and symptoms below don’t always mean a man has penile cancer. In fact, many are more likely to be caused by other conditions. Still, if you have any of them, see a doctor right away so their cause can be found and treated, if needed. The sooner a diagnosis is made, the sooner you can start treatment and the better it is likely to work.

Skin changes

The first sign of penile cancer is most often a change in the skin of the penis. This is most likely to be on the glans (tip) of the penis or on the foreskin (in uncircumcised men), but it can also be on the shaft. These changes may include:

  • An area of skin becoming thicker
  • Changes in the skin color
  • A lump
  • An ulcer (sore) that might bleed
  • A reddish, velvety rash under the foreskin
  • Small, crusty bumps
  • Flat, bluish-brown growths
  • Smelly discharge (fluid) or bleeding under the foreskin

Sores or lumps from penile cancer usually don't hurt, but they might. You should see a doctor if you find any kind of new growth or other abnormality on your penis, even if it's not painful. Any change that doesn't get better in about 4 weeks, or gets worse, should be checked by a doctor.

Swelling

Swelling at the end of the penis, especially when the foreskin is constricted, is another possible sign of penile cancer. It may be harder to draw back the foreskin.

Lumps under the skin in the groin area

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. Normally, they are bean-sized and can barely be felt at all. If they're swollen, the lymph nodes may feel like smooth lumps under the skin.

But swollen lymph nodes don’t always mean that cancer has spread there. More commonly, lymph nodes swell in response to an infection. The skin in and around a penile cancer can often become infected, which might cause the nearby lymph nodes to swell, even if the cancer hasn’t reached them.

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.

American Society of Clinical Oncology. Penile Cancer: Symptoms and Signs. 8/2017. Accessed at www.cancer.net/cancer-types/penile-cancer/symptoms-and-signs on May 27, 2018.

Cancer Research UK. Symptoms of penile cancer. 4/2016. Accessed at www.cancerresearchuk.org/about-cancer/penile-cancer/symptoms on May 27, 2018.

National Comprehensive Cancer Network, Clinical Practice Guidelines in Oncology (NCCN Guidelines®), Penile Cancer, Version 2.2018 -- March 26, 2018. Accessed at www.nccn.org/professionals/physician_gls/pdf/penile.pdf on May 27, 2018.

Urology Care Foundation. What are Symptoms of Penile Cancer? Accessed at www.urologyhealth.org/urologic-conditions/penile-cancer/symptoms on May 27, 2018.

Last Medical Review: June 25, 2018 Last Revised: June 25, 2018

American Cancer Society medical information is copyrighted material. For reprint requests, please see our Content Usage Policy.