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Patient with penile cancer symptoms

Penile cancer is a rare malignancy that accounts for fewer than 1% of cancer cases per year. Around 95% of penile cancer is squamous cell carcinoma that forms on the foreskin (in uncircumcised men) or on the glans. This type of penile cancer grows slowly and, when found at an early stage, often has a favorable outcome. The other types of penile cancer are melanomas, basal cell carcinomas, adenocarcinomas and sarcomas. Of all the types, melanoma is the most aggressive form of penile cancer. 

Most changes to the penis are not symptoms of penile cancer, but rather symptoms of a less serious condition, such as a sexually transmitted infection. However, it’s important to report any unusual changes in the appearance or feel of your penis to your physician, who can help diagnose and treat the underlying cause.

Early warning signs and early symptoms of penile cancer

Most penile cancers start in the skin, so the early warning signs are more readily apparent than with other cancers. Additionally, men are already advised to perform monthly testicular self-exams, and many find it convenient to look for any changes on or around the penis at the same time. Penile cancer can cause a variety of different symptoms, so again, consult your doctor if you notice any changes to your penis.

Common penile cancer signs and symptoms

Penile cancer can cause some easily noticeable symptoms that you can see and feel.

What does penile cancer feel like?

You may feel:

  • Unexplained pain during urination or sexual intercourse
  • Swollen lymph nodes in the groin
  • Changes in the texture of the skin on your penis, such as thickened skin
  • Lumps, bumps, or sores on your penis
  • Swelling beneath the foreskin

What does penile cancer look like?

There are several visible signs that could potentially point to penile cancer:

  • Changes in the color of the skin on your penis
  • Red, velvety rash on the penis
  • Persistent odorous discharge beneath the foreskin
  • Flat, bluish-brown lesions
  • Blood or other unexplained fluids being secreted from the penis

In the unlikely event that these symptoms are caused by penile cancer, early diagnosis can greatly increase your treatment options. 

Advanced penile cancer signs and symptoms

Advanced penile cancer can cause worsening of the symptoms listed above, as well as fatigue, weight loss or abdominal pain. Some patients may avoid seeking treatment because they are embarrassed or fearful, but it’s essential to remember that while early-stage penile cancers have a favorable survival rate, late-stage penile cancers can be more difficult to treat and may require more aggressive treatments that can affect your ability to urinate while standing or engage in sexual intercourse. With that in mind, it’s important to know what is outside the range of normal for your own body, and avoid putting off making an appointment with a physician if abnormal changes occur.

How Moffitt Cancer Center approaches penile cancer

Moffitt Cancer Center’s Urologic Oncology Program comprises a wide range of medical specialists, including oncologists, radiation therapists, surgeons, reproductive health specialists and social workers who focus exclusively on penile cancer cases. Together, they diagnose patients with penile cancer using advanced technologies and develop comprehensive, individualized treatment plans. Penile cancer is often treated with surgery, radiation therapy and chemotherapy. At Moffitt Cancer Center, we also have a robust clinical trials program, which has earned us the status of a National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center. 

If you’re experiencing penile cancer symptoms and would like to discuss them with one of our oncologists, call Moffitt at 1-888-663-3488 or complete a new patient registration form online. Florida’s top cancer hospital is changing the model, and we provide our patients with cancer expertise as soon as possible.


Penile Cancer: Symptoms, Diagnosis & Treatment - Urology Care Foundation

Penile Cancer