By: Dr. Thomas Incledon
Is penile cancer the worst diagnosis a man can get?
Penile cancer is rare, and if found early, often curable. So, why does the diagnosis often sound like a death sentence to men? Likely because the penis is connected to the idea of manhood and treatment for penile cancer can include a partial or total penectomy, which removes some or all of the penile shaft. This surgery can prevent or limit common male activities such as urinating standing up and penetrative sexual intercourse.
But there are ways to avoid this drastic procedure. Mainly, staying on top of your health, knowing about risk factors and paying attention to early signs of penile cancer. “Men, as a rule, are sensitive about their penis and don’t like to talk about issues they may be experiencing,” says Dr. Tom Incledon, founder & CEO of Causenta. “So, even though the subject is thought of as taboo, it’s important for men to be open and honest in order to take care of any problems or cancer that may develop.”
- Circumcision: Penile cancer generally develops in cells under the foreskin, so men who are not circumcised are at a higher risk for penile cancer. Phimosis and smegma are additional risk factors associated with men who are not circumcised. These conditions, which are a tightening of the foreskin or smelly secretions under the foreskin, can inflame and irritate the penis; overtime, this can lead to penile cancer.
- HPV: Certain types of human papillomavirus (HPV) can contribute to penile cancer. Men with HPV have no symptoms of the virus, so it can go undetected and develop into penile cancer. So, use protection when having sex if you are unsure of your partner’s STD/STI status.
- Smoking: As with other types of cancer, smoking and the use of other tobacco products can play a part in developing penile cancer.
- Age: According to the American Cancer Society, the average age of a man diagnosed with penile cancer in the U.S. is 68.
- UV Light Treatment for Psoriasis: Men who have psoriasis, which is a skin condition, often undergo PUVA treatment. Exposure to the UV light may contribute to developing penile cancer. During PUVA treatments, men should cover their genital area to reduce this risk factor.
- AIDS: Men with AIDS are more likely to develop penile cancer. This is likely linked to their weakened immune system and correlation to high instances of co-occurring ailments such as HPV.
Signs and Symptoms
Penile cancer often visible warning signs that exhibit as skin changes, including the development of lumps or sores; changes in skin color; small, crusty bumps; flat, bluish-brown growths; bleeding; and discharge from the under part of the foreskin. Swelling of the penis and lumps in the groin are other signs of penile cancer.
Because these symptoms are obvious, if you notice something, get it checked out immediately. If penile cancer is detected early, treatment options are less invasive, and you have a better long-term prognosis.
Strategies for treating penile cancer vary based on the stage of disease. In the standard of care line of treatment, surgery is the primary strategy used. In some cases, radiation therapy may be recommended, either instead of or in addition to surgery. Other local treatments, like circumcision, can also be used for early-stage penile cancer. Chemotherapy is an option for larger tumors or if the cancer has metastasized.
At Causenta, we will also evaluate a man’s overall health and discuss goals with him before recommending a treatment plan. “Understanding the long-term side effects of certain surgeries for penile cancer are really important for emotional and mental health,” says Incledon. “Ultimately, we want patients to be cancer free, but we also want them to be able to live happy and full lives.”
For more information on penile cancer, treatment options, and holistic cancer care with Causenta, schedule your complimentary 30-minute consultation today.