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Many men ask their physicians about penile cancer screening, or tests than could identify potentially cancerous changes even if no symptoms are present. Currently, there are not yet any effective screenings available for penile cancer. Therefore, healthy men – as well as men who have an elevated risk of developing penile cancer – should pay close attention to their bodies and report any unusual changes to a physician. If a man’s symptoms suggest that penile cancer might be present, further testing can then be performed. 

In the absence of a penile cancer screening test, men should watch for any of the following warning signs that testing may be necessary:

  • Changes in the color, thickness or texture of the skin on the penis

  • Blisters, sores, lumps or rashes

  • Flat bumps that are bluish-brown in color

  • Bleeding ulcers or bumps

  • Fluid or discharge under the foreskin

  • Swelling at the tip of the penis

  • Unexplained pain

The most important thing that a man can do if he notices one or more of these abnormalities is to discuss them promptly with a physician. Some men delay discussing their symptoms with a physician until they have been present for a year or more due to fear of unnecessary embarrassment. However, when penile cancer is diagnosed in its earlier stages, a patient generally has more treatment options than he would have if he waits to tell his doctor about his symptoms until several months down the road. Until a penile cancer screening method can be developed, personal knowledge and quick action are the best ways for a man to be proactive about his health. 

How do you test for penile cancer?

The presence of symptoms may cause your doctor to recommend testing. He or she will likely begin by discussing your medical history with you, as well as perform a physical exam. If your doctor suspects cancer, he or she may use imaging tests or a biopsy procedure to confirm or rule out the presence of cancer.


A sample of tissue is surgically removed to be examined under a microscope. There a few different types of biopsy, including:

  • Incisional biopsy – Only part of the affected area is removed. This type of biopsy is usually done when the lesion is large, ulcerated or growing deeply.
  • Excisional biopsy – The entire lesion is removed. This type of biopsy is typically used when the lesion is small.
  • Lymph node biopsy – With fine needle aspiration or surgical removal, the surrounding lymph nodes are checked for cancer. This is usually done when the cancer has moved deep into the penis.


Tests such as CT scans, MRIs, ultrasounds and X-rays may be used if your doctor suspects the cancer has spread. Imaging tests help physicians to get a better picture of the inside of our body to evaluate cancer spread and stage the cancer.

Penile cancer treatment at Moffitt Cancer Center

At Moffitt Cancer Center, our oncologists can assess any unusual penile changes, and if the changes cannot be attributed to a less serious cause, recommend any diagnostic testing that might be appropriate. All of our biopsies and labwork are processed on-site, enabling us to provide prompt and accurate reporting of results. This also helps us to accelerate the treatment process in the unlikely event that penile cancer is the cause of a man’s symptoms.

Referrals are not required to obtain diagnostic or treatment services at Moffitt. To request additional information about penile cancer screening and diagnosis, call 1-888-663-3488 or submit a new patient registration form online.