Urologic Conditions & Treatments

Penile Cancer Chattanooga TN

Penile cancer is cancer of the male sexual organ. It includes several types of tissue such as skin, nerve, smooth muscle and blood vessels. Different kinds of cancer can develop from each type of tissue. But almost 95% of all penile cancers are from skin cells called squamous cells. Most are found in the foreskin. These tumors grow slowly and are usually found early and cured.

Less than 2% of penile cancers are melanoma or basal cell carcinoma. Sarcomas develop from the blood vessels, smooth muscle or connective tissue. Penile cancer is very rare in the U.S., Canada and Europe. It accounts for less than 1% of cancers in men. It is more common in Asia, Africa and South America, where it accounts for up to 10% of male cancers.

What are the risks for getting penile cancer?

  • HPV or human papilloma virus causes papillomas or genital warts. They are not cancers. But different types of HPV can infect female and male genital organs. HPV 16, 18 and 31 infection creates are high risk for penile cancers. These types are found in about half of all penile cancers.
  • Not being circumcised. Circumcision removes the foreskin and lowers the chance of getting penile cancer.
  • Smokers are more likely to develop penile cancer, and smokers with HPV infections have even higher risk.
  • UV light treatment for psoriasis can increase the risk of penile cancer. Simple prevention includes covering the genitals during the treatment.
  • The risk goes up with age. The majority of cases are diagnosed in men over 55.
  • Lowered immune system

What causes penile cancer?

While no one knows the exact cause, this cancer is associated with the conditions described in the risk factors above.

Can it be prevented?

Reducing your risk is the key to prevention. Good personal hygiene is important, especially in uncircumcised men. Avoiding HPV can decrease the risk. Use of condoms can offer some protection.

Vaccination has proven effective in preventing certain HPV infections. Speak with your doctor for more information. Check yourself. If you find a growth or abnormality, even if not painful, see your doctor. When cancer is caught early and removed, there will be little damage to the penis.

Signs and symptoms of penile cancer

  • Change in the skin of the penis- chance in skin color, thickness, ulcers, or lumps.
  • Swelling of the penis is a common sign of penile cancer.
  • If the cancer has spread, it usually goes to the lymph nodes in the groin. The nodes will swell and feel like lumps under the skin.

All of these signs and symptoms do not mean you have cancer. Many benign conditions can cause these symptoms. The sooner you get a diagnosis and treatment the better chance you have.

Diagnosis

You will be asked your medical history and receive a physical exam. The physical exam will include examination of your penis, where the doctor can often find abnormalities. If penile cancer is suspected, you will need a biopsy, where a small piece of tissue is removed and sent to a pathologist to determine if cancer cells are present and what type they are.

Imaging tests can be used when the cancer is diagnosed and a determination of its stage and spread is needed. This can be done by CT scan, MRI, and/or Ultrasound. The cancer will be staged to determine how far the cancer has spread. The stage will determine your treatment options.

Treatment Options

Surgery is the primary treatment for most penile cancers. Sometimes, after surgery you may be advised to receive radiation therapy or chemotherapy to prevent a recurrence. The objective is to treat the cancer as effectively as possible while limiting the effect on function and appearance.

Types of surgery include:

  • Circumcision. When the cancer is only in the foreskin.
  • Simple excision. Removing the tumor.
  • Mohs surgery is microscopically controlled surgery that removes a layer of skin where the tumor is located. The tissue is examined immediately under a microscope. If that layer has cancer cells, it is removed, and checked again, until a layer is reached where no cancer cells can be found. It is a slow process with the objective of saving as much normal tissue as possible.
  • Laser surgery is good for squamous cell cancer that is only in the outer layer of skin or for shallow basal cell cancers.
  • Cryosurgery freezes the cancer cells.
  • Partial or total penectomy removes part or all of the penis. It is used to treat cancer that is growing deep inside the penis.
  • Lymph node surgery is necessary for stage 2 or higher. The lymph nodes must be checked to prevent the spread of the cancer.
  • Radiation therapy is available for some early stage penile cancers to avoid surgery.
  • For very early stage penile cancers topical chemotherapy may be an option. Here an anti-cancer medication is applied to the skin. It is only used for pre-cancerous and stage 0 cancer.
  • Immune therapy in the form of a cream can be used for pre-cancerous and stage 0 cancer.
  • Chemotherapy for cancers that have spread to the lymph nodes or other organs can be used to shrink the tumors before surgery to make them easier to remove.

UT Urology is a regional leader in urology providing care to the people Chattanooga, Tennessee, Alabama and Northern Georgia. We offer state-of-the-art diagnostic tools and cutting edge solutions for your penile cancer. We have multiple fellowship-trained and general urologists who can assist with care, compassion and excellence.

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