The penis is a rod-shaped external male reproductive organ. It is made up of skin, nerves, smooth muscle, and blood vessels. The penis is categorized into different parts
|Epidermoid/squamous cell carcinoma||95%|
|Basal cell carcinoma||2%|
Penile Cancer is one of the most common genitourinary Cancers encountered in India. The incidence of carcinoma of the penis varies according to circumcision practice, hygienic standard, phimosis, the number of sexual partners, HPV infection, exposure to tobacco products, and other factors. The statistical report of penile Cancer states that it is encountered in 3.32 per 100,000 inhabitants in India.
Detection of penile Cancer at an early stage is aided by the following symptoms:
Risk factors when not taken care of can result in penile Cancer. Some penile Cancer risk factors, like smoking, HPV, circumcision can be controlled, but others like age or family history, can’t be changed. Some of the risk factors are discussed below.
The most important risk factor for penile Cancer is infection with HPV virus. Sexual activity with a person who has HPV is the most common way of getting infected. There are different types of HPV, called strains. It is a group of more than 150 related viruses.
Circumcision means removing all or part of the foreskin. This procedure is most often done in infants but it can also be done later in life.
Men who were circumcised as children have a lower chance of getting penile Cancer than those who were not, but the same protective effect is not seen if the foreskin is removed as an adult.
In men who are not circumcised, the foreskin can sometimes become tight and difficult to retract. This condition is known as phimosis. Penile Cancer is more common in men with phimosis.
Smegma is a thick substance that can build up under the foreskin and is caused by dead skin cells, bacteria, and oily secretions from the skin. Smegma may contain small amounts of Cancer-causing substances.
Smegma is more common in men with phimosis. Uncircumcised men should pull back the foreskin and thoroughly wash the penis on a regular basis.
Men who smoke are more likely to develop penile Cancer. Smokers who have HPV infections have an even higher risk.
Men who have a skin disease called psoriasis are sometimes treated with drugs called psoralens, followed by exposing the body to an ultraviolet A (UVA) light source. This is known as PUVA therapy. Men who have had this treatment have been found to have a higher rate of penile Cancer.
The risk of penile Cancer goes up with age. The average age of a man when diagnosed is 68. It is rare in men under the age of 40.
Men with AIDS have a higher risk of penile Cancer. This higher risk seems to be related to their weakened immune system, which is a result of this disease. The prognosis in these patients is reported to be very poor.
Although there is no proven way to completely prevent penile Cancer, a few precautions may be able to lower your risk.
Here are a few ways to lower the risk of penile Cancer.
Circumcision may provide some protection from penile Cancer because removing the foreskin helps keep the area clean. Epidermoid/squamous cell carcinoma of the penis almost never occurs in men who are circumcised. Circumcision in childhood/adolescence is found to be protective against invasive penile Cancer.
Men who carefully and completely clean under the foreskin on a regular basis can lower their risk of developing penile Cancer.
Not smoking and avoiding sexual practices that could lead to an HPV or HIV/AIDS infection can help lower your risk of penile Cancer.
Penile Cancer originates in the shaft of the penis and with each passing stage the spread of Cancer goes on increasing. The most common sites of penile Cancer metastasis are the inguinal and iliac region, as lymph fluid carries the Cancer cells from the groin into the inguinal lymph nodes. These lymph fluid further drains into the pelvic
lymph nodes, thus spreading the Cancer cells from inguinal lymph nodes to pelvic lymph nodes.
The grade of penile Cancer is used to understand the stage of Cancer. Low grade Cancers usually grow very slowly. High grade Cancers tend to grow more quickly.
Survival rates indicate an average outcome of large number of people who had the disease, but they cannot precisely predict the expectancy of any particular case. Multiple factors may affect a person’s outlook.
|Stages||5 year Survival Rate|
|Stage III and IV||59%|
As almost all Penile Cancers start in the skin of penis which is very sensitive, so they are often noticed early in the course of the disease. Also the symptoms of penile Cancer start appearing from the early stages facilitating an early detection. Though at times these symptoms can be caused by other faculties as well, consulting a doctor is highly recommended.
Here are a few diagnostic tests/ procedures that can be followed to detect the presence of the disease.
A biopsy is the removal of a small amount of tissue for examination under a microscope. If Cancerous cells are seen in a tissue sample, then the biopsy is called positive for Cancer. If no Cancer is found, then the biopsy is called benign or negative for Cancer.
The following types of biopsies may be used for penile Cancer:
In punch biopsy, a sharp round surgical tool is used to remove a circular piece of tissue. In an elliptical excision, a scalpel is used to cut out a piece of tissue.
In this procedure, the skin is usually made numb with a topical medication that blocks the sensation of pain. Then, a medication is injected into the area near the tumor to prevent pain in tissues beneath the skin. Then a thin needle is inserted into the tumor and some cells and fluid are removed. The procedure may be repeated 2 or 3 times to collect samples from different areas of the tumor.
In early stages, one cannot feel the lymph nodes, so the lymph nodes are removed and examined under a microscope. This procedure is done to find out if Cancer cells have spread to lymph nodes near the penis. In more advanced stages, a lump in the groin can be felt as the inguinal lymph nodes get bigger. For penile Cancer, the sentinel lymph nodes are located just under the skin in the groin. If Cancer cells are found in these lymph nodes, it means that the Cancer is more likely to have spread to other nearby lymph nodes or to other parts of the body through the blood and lymph vessels. Even if Cancer cells are not found during a sentinel lymph node biopsy, there is still a chance that the Cancer has spread.
Groin is the area between the abdomen and the upper thigh on either side of the body. Dissection of the groin lymph node is the most accurate way to find out whether the Cancer has spread to any lymph nodes near the penis. In this procedure, the lymph nodes near the penis are removed and checked for Cancer.
An x-ray is a way to create a picture of the structures inside of the body, using a small amount of radiation.
A CT scan creates a 3-D picture of the inside of the body using x-rays taken from different angles. A computer then combines these images into a detailed, cross-sectional view that shows abnormalities or tumors. A CT scan can also be used to measure a tumor’s size. Sometimes, a special dye called a contrast medium is given before the scan to provide better detail on the image.
An MRI uses magnetic fields, to produce detailed images of the body. MRI can also be used to measure the tumor’s size. A special dye called a contrast medium is given before the scan to create a clearer picture. This dye can be injected into a patient’s vein or given as a pill to swallow.
Radiation therapy is the use of high-energy x-rays or other particles to destroy Cancer cells. Radiation therapy is of two types:
External-beam radiation therapy: It is the most common type of radiation treatment and is given from a machine outside the body.
Internal radiation therapy or brachytherapy: It is the radiation treatment given using implants.
Chemotherapy is the use of drugs to destroy Cancer cells, usually by stopping the Cancer cells’ ability to grow and divide.
There are 2 types of chemotherapy that may be used for penile Cancer: topical chemotherapy and systemic chemotherapy.
Common systemic drugs for penile Cancer include:
Penile Cancer is highly treatable, when the Cancer is diagnosed at early stages. A surgery to remove part or entire penis can be useful to treat penile Cancer even at the later stages.
In case of experiencing any of the mentioned symptoms or having a prior or familial history of testicular Cancer, a physical examination by a doctor is highly recommended.
In most of the cases, men discover the signs and symptoms of penile Cancer and being aware of them aids in suspecting the presence of the disease. Consulting a doctor immediately and going for diagnosis will definitely make things clear.