The earlier penile cancer is found, the better. If it’s found early, there is a good chance for successful treatment and a cure. If diagnosis is delayed, the disease can get worse. Treatment for more advanced cancer may be less successful and more disfiguring.
Since you see and touch your penis when you urinate, you can help spot the disease early. Men who aren’t circumcised are at greater risk for penile cancer. But every man should be on the lookout for penile lesions.
You should see your health care provider if you notice any of these on the foreskin, or the shaft or head of your penis:
- An area of skin becoming thicker and/or changing color
- A lump on the penis
- An ulcer (sore) that might bleed
- A reddish, velvety rash
- Small, crusty bumps
- Flat, bluish-brown growths
- Smelly discharge (fluid) under the foreskin
Most of these signs may be from a bacterial or fungal infection, or even an allergic reaction. All of these will respond to antibacterial or antifungal ointments and creams. But growths that return or sores that don’t heal must be thought of as cancer until it’s proven they’re not.
Penile cancer is often, unfortunately, ignored until it is advanced. Patients are reluctant or embarrassed to talk about their genitals. Or, they may be afraid of treatment or surgery on the penis. If you notice any of these signs, it’s important to have them checked by a health care provider as soon as you can.