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What Are the Early Signs of Penile Cancer?

Doctor discusses penile cancer

Penile cancer can often be detected in early stages, mainly because it usually originates in skin cells and causes noticeable changes in the skin on the penis. That said, currently there is no screening test available for penile cancer that is effective enough to justify its routine use in the general public.

While many men do not recognize the need to seek medical attention for penile skin changes, it is vitally important— particularly for men who have an elevated risk of developing penile cancer because they are over age 60, are current or former smokers or have a compromised immune system. When penile cancer is found early, it can often be treated effectively and even cured— with little to no resulting damage to the penis.

Skin changes that may indicate penile cancer

The earliest signs of penile cancer often involve skin changes on the tip (glans), foreskin or shaft of the penis. Some signs to watch for include:

  • A thickened area of skin
  • Changes in skin color
  • A lump (which may or may not be painful)
  • A sore that does not heal
  • A red, velvety rash
  • Small, crusty bumps
  • Flat, bluish-brown lesions

In most cases, warts, blisters, sores, ulcers, white patches and other skin abnormalities that develop on the penis are caused by infections or other noncancerous conditions. Even so, it is still essential to seek a prompt diagnosis because many of these conditions still require treatment. In addition to skin changes, other possible signs of penile cancer include an odorous discharge, swelling at the end of the penis and enlarged lymph nodes in the groin.

Is penile cancer noticeable?

Because the early signs of penile cancer often affect the skin’s appearance, this malignancy tends to be relatively noticeable. With that being said, even after noticing the symptoms described above, many men delay seeking treatment. They may do so because they’re embarrassed or fearful, or because they assume that their symptoms have resulted from a less serious condition. If you’re experiencing the signs of penile cancer, it’s important to promptly consult with a professional.

Does penile cancer show up in a blood test?

Unfortunately, there’s currently no blood test that can be used to detect the presence of penile cancer. If a physician suspects that a patient might have this malignancy, they may confirm the diagnosis using a biopsy, an inguinal lymph node dissection or various imaging tests (for example, CT scans, MRI scans or X-rays).

The Moffitt Cancer Center approach to penile cancer

If you would like to have your penile cancer symptoms evaluated by an oncologist in the Urologic Oncology Program at Moffitt Cancer Center, you can request a consultation by calling 1-888-663-3488 or completing our new patient registration form online. We do not require referrals, and we’ll be sure to connect you to a cancer expert as soon as possible.


Cancer Research UK: Tests for Penile Cancer
Urology Care Foundation: Penile Cancer