Frequently Asked Questions

Is penile cancer contagious? Can I pass it on to others?

Until recently, penile cancer was mostly thought to be caused by chemical irritation. For this reason, there was no worry about transmitting it. But recent data have linked the HPV to both penile and cervical cancers. There seem to be more cases of these cancers in the spouses of people with this sexually transmitted disease. Thus, while penile cancer isn’t transmissible, if you or your partner has HPV, you should wear a condom during sex. You should also be aware of any lesions. Women should have cervical examinations often. It’s important to eliminate or minimize the infection. It’s also important to talk with your urologist about HPV’s link to penile cancer.

Does an operation on the penis mean that I won’t be able to stand to empty my bladder?

If your cancer is found early, the surgery needed shouldn’t affect your ability to stand when you urinate. The surgeries needed for more advanced cancer may cause you to have to sit when you urinate.

Will the treatment affect my ability to have sex?

Early detection and minimal surgeries shouldn’t interfere with normal sex. More extensive procedures might, though.

Should all male children be circumcised soon after birth to prevent penile tumors?

This question is a matter of much debate. Studies point to a lower incidence of urinary tract infections and penile cancer in men who’ve been circumcised. Parents should discuss the risks and benefits of circumcision with their child’s doctor.

If a male has not been circumcised soon after birth, will later circumcision as a teen or young adult protect him from penile cancer?

Circumcision soon after birth is the best protection from getting penile cancer later. A procedure done in young adults doesn’t have nearly the same protective effect.

For example, penile cancer is very rare in Jewish males, for whom circumcision at birth is the accepted ritual. Penile cancer is more common in Muslim males, for whom the accepted ritual is circumcision at puberty. Overall, it isn’t as common as in men who haven’t been circumcised.

Where Can I Go for More Information?

National Cancer Institute at the National Institutes of Health

Penile Cancer—Patient Version