Penile Cancer

Penile cancer is a disease in which malignant (cancer) cells form in the tissues of the penis. The penis is a rod-shaped male reproductive organ that passes sperm and urine from the body. It contains two types of erectile tissue (spongy tissue with blood vessels that fill with blood to make an erection):

  • Corpora cavernosa: The two columns of erectile tissue that form most of the penis.
  • Corpus spongiosum: The single column of erectile tissue that forms a small portion of the penis. The corpus spongiosum surrounds the urethra (the tube through which urine and sperm pass from the body).

The erectile tissue is wrapped in connective tissue and covered with skin. The glans (head of the penis) is covered with loose skin called the foreskin.


Human papillomavirus infection may increase the risk of developing penile cancer. Other risk factors for penile cancer include the following:

  • Men who were not circumcised at birth
  • Being age 60 or older
  • Having phimosis (a condition in which the foreskin of the penis cannot be pulled back over the glans)
  • Having poor personal hygiene
  • Having many sexual partners
  • Using tobacco products


Possible symptoms include:

  • Redness, irritation, or a sore on the penis
  • Sores, discharge, and bleeding
  • A lump on the penis


The following tests and procedures may be used:

  • Physical exam and history
  • Biopsy
  • Fine-needle aspiration (FNA) biopsy
  • Incisional biopsy
  • Excisional biopsy


Three types of standard treatment are used:

  • Surgery
    • Mohs microsurgery
    • Laser surgery
    • Cryosurgery
    • Circumcision
    • Wide local excision
    • Amputation of the penis
  • Radiation therapy
  • Chemotherapy
  • Biologic therapy
  • Radiosensitizers
  • Sentinel lymph node biopsy followed by surgery



Content was created using EBSCO’s Health Library. Edits to original content made by Rector and Visitors of the University of Virginia. This information is not a substitute for professional medical advice.