Merck Manual

Please confirm that you are not located inside the Russian Federation

honeypot link
Quick Facts

Penile Cancer


The Manual's Editorial Staff

Last full review/revision Oct 2020| Content last modified Oct 2020
Click here for the Professional Version
Get the full details
Topic Resources

Cancer is the out-of-control growth of cells in your body. Cells are the tiny building blocks of your body. Cells specialize in what they do. Different organs are made of different kinds of cells. Almost any kind of cell can become cancerous. 

What is penile cancer?

Penile cancer is skin cancer on your penis.

  • Penile cancer is uncommon and happens mainly in men who aren't circumcised (still have foreskin)

  • Infection with human papillomavirus (HPV) raises the chance of having penile cancer

  • It usually happens on the tip of your penis (the glans) or under your foreskin

  • Penile cancer is usually treated by doing surgery, but very small cancers may be treated with lasers or cream

What causes penile cancer?

Risk of penile cancer is increased by:

  • Infection with HPV (a common sexually transmitted virus that can cause cervical cancer in women and genital warts)

  • Not being circumcised—circumcision is surgery to remove the foreskin from the penis

What are the symptoms of penile cancer?

Symptoms include:

  • At first, just a small red patch

  • A sore that doesn't heal

  • An area that's hard to the touch

  • A wart-like growth

When penile cancer is more advanced, you may have a larger sore or growth.

If the cancer has spread, you may get hard lumps in your groin.

How do doctors tell if I have penile cancer?

Doctors will examine you and do:

  • A biopsy (taking out part of the tissue to look at under a microscope)

If you have penile cancer, doctors may do other tests, such as CT scan and MRI, to see if the cancer has spread.

How do doctors treat penile cancer?

When they're first found, most penile cancers are small and haven't spread. For these small cancers, doctors will:

  • Have you apply a special cream

  • Do surgery or use a laser to remove the cancer and some of the tissue around it

For larger cancers, doctors do surgery to remove the cancer. Doctors try to take away as little of the penis as possible. However, bigger and more aggressive cancers need more extensive surgery.

Will I be able to pee (urinate) and have sex after getting treatment for penile cancer?

It depends where the cancer is on your penis and how advanced it is. With early, small cancers near the tip, you usually can use the remaining penis to pee and have sex.

NOTE: This is the Consumer Version. DOCTORS: Click here for the Professional Version
Click here for the Professional Version


Others also read

Test your knowledge

Loss of Smell
Anosmia is the total loss of smell. Most people with anosmia can taste sweet, sour, salty, and bitter substances but cannot distinguish among specific flavors. This is because the sense of smell makes it possible to distinguish among flavors, not taste receptors as many people erroneously believe. Which of the following is NOT a common cause of anosmia?
Download the Manuals App iOS ANDROID
Download the Manuals App iOS ANDROID
Download the Manuals App iOS ANDROID

Also of Interest

Download the Manuals App iOS ANDROID
Download the Manuals App iOS ANDROID
Download the Manuals App iOS ANDROID