Penis Disorders (cont.)
What causes penile cancer?
The exact cause of penile cancer is not known, but there
are certain risk factors for the disease. A risk factor is anything that increases a person's chance of getting a disease. The risk factors for cancer of the penis may include the following:
- Uncircumcision: Men who are not circumcised at birth have a higher risk for getting cancer of the penis.
- Human papilloma virus (HPV) infection: HPV includes more than 100 types of viruses that can cause warts (papillomas). Certain types of HPV can
infect the reproductive organs and the anal area. These types of HPV are passed
from one person to another during sexual contact.
- Smoking: Smoking exposes
the body to many cancer-causing chemicals that affect more than the lungs.
- Smegma: Oily secretions from the skin can accumulate under the foreskin of the penis. The result is a thick, bad-smelling substance called smegma. If the penis is not cleaned thoroughly, the presence of smegma can cause irritation and inflammation.
- Phimosis: This is a condition in which the foreskin becomes constricted and difficult to retract.
- Treatment for psoriasis:
The skin disease psoriasis is sometimes treated with a combination of medication and exposure to ultraviolet light, which may increase a person's risk for penile cancer.
- Age: Over half of penile cancer occur in men over age 68.
What are the symptoms of penile cancer?
Symptoms of penile cancer include growths or sores on the penis, abnormal discharge from the penis, and bleeding.
What treatments are given for penile cancer?
Surgery to remove the cancer is the most common treatment for penile cancer. A doctor may take out the cancer using one of the following operations:
- Wide local excision takes out only the cancer and some normal tissue on either side.
Electrodessication and curettage
removes the cancer by scraping the tumor
with a curette (thin, long instrument with a scraping edge) and applying an
electric current to the area to kill cancer cells.
- Cryosurgery uses
liquid nitrogen to freeze and kill the cancer cells.
- Microsurgery (Moh's surgery) is an operation that removes the cancer and as little
normal tissue as possible. During this surgery, the doctor uses a microscope
to look at the cancerous area to make sure all the cancer cells are
- Laser surgery uses a narrow beam of light to remove cancer cells.
- Circumcision is an operation that removes the foreskin.
- Amputation of the penis (penectomy) is an operation that removes the penis. It is the most common
and most effective treatment of cancer of the penis. In a partial penectomy,
part of the penis is removed. In a total penectomy, the whole penis is
removed. Lymph nodes in the groin may be taken
out during surgery.
Radiation, which uses high-energy rays to attack cancer, and chemotherapy, which uses drugs to kill cancer, are other treatment options.
Reviewed by the doctors at The Cleveland Clinic Urological Institute.
Reviewed by Daniel Perlman, MD on September 24, 2007
Portions of this page © The Cleveland Clinic 2000-2005
Last Editorial Review: 12/13/2007
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