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What Are the Early Signs of Penile Cancer?

Doctor discusses penile cancer

Currently, there is no screening test available for penile cancer that is effective enough to justify its routine use in the general public. Even so, 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.

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 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.

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.

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.