Medical Definition of Chancre

  • Medical Author:
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

Chancre: The classic painless ulcer of syphilis. The chancre forms in the first (primary) stage of syphilis. It is highly contagious and can last 1-5 weeks. The disease can be transmitted from contact with the ulcer, which is teeming with spirochetes. If the ulcer is outside of the vagina or on the scrotum of the male, the use of condoms may not help in preventing transmission of the disease. Likewise, if the ulcer is in the mouth, merely kissing the infected individual can spread syphilis.

The word chancre is the French for a little ulcer. Chancre and the English canker come from the Latin cancer for crab. Why? Perhaps because chronic ulcers can be hard like the shell of a crab.

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Reviewed on 10/30/2018

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