Most people feel shy when talking about their reproduction system and as such, many of them are uncomfortable with discussions of cancers affecting this system.
The American Cancer Society estimates that about 2,030 new cases of penile cancer will occur in the US in 2016. These cases will result in about 340 deaths in this year alone. It shows that nearly one person dies each day from this disease in the US yet people know little about it. It is important to note that penile cancer affects Asian, South American, and African countries more than it affects North America. Here is a comprehensive overview of this global problem.
What is penile cancer?
This disease is a malignant growth that occurs in the penis tissues or in its skin. There are several types of penile cancers namely melanoma, small cell carcinoma, Merkel cell carcinoma, and squamous cell carcinomas among others. The differences in these malignant growths stem from the fact that the penis contains different tissues such as blood vessels, smooth muscle, nerves, and skin. For this reason, cancerous growths starting from these different tissues lead to different types of cancer. For example, melanoma would affect the skin of the penis while adenocarcinoma and sarcoma would affect the sweat glands and the blood vessels of the penis respectively. Sarcoma may also affect the organ’s smooth muscle and connective tissue.
The signs and symptoms of penile cancer
The first sign of this medical condition is changes on the skin of the sexual organ. These changes may first occur on the foreskin if a man did not undergo circumcision or on the tip of the penis if he underwent circumcision. A person would notice changing color, sores, and redness on the skin of the penis. A discharge that has a foul smell is also likely. Bleeding is possible as well.
Moreover, the end of the penis may swell. This swelling may constrict the foreskin in uncircumcised men. The cancer may spread to other parts of the body especially the lymph nodes found in a person's groin. Here, the lymph nodes may swell.
Remember that these signs and symptoms, though serious, may point to penile diseases other than penile cancer. Therefore, it is critical for you to seek your doctor’s advice on the cause of these signs and symptoms as soon as you notice them.
Survival rates and treatment
More than 85% of the men diagnosed with this disease live past their 5th year after the diagnosis, but only in those cases where the penile cancer has not spread to other parts of the body. This 5-year survival rate drops to 59% if the malignant growth affects the penile area and other organs close to it. If the cancer affects distant parts of the body, then the 5-year survival rate stands at only at 11%. It means that treating this cancer as soon as possible is the best idea before it spreads to other parts of the body.
The treatments available for penile cancer include laser surgery, microsurgery, wide local excision, penectomy, and circumcision. Doctors decide the particular treatment a patient needs based on his individual case.