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Carcinoma of the penis: Treatment, symptoms, advice and help

About carcinoma of the penis

Carcinoma of the penis also called penile cancer refers to a malignant growth of cells in penis which is an external genital organ in men. Carcinoma of the penis is one of the rare cancers seen and typically affects the cells on the external area of penis.

Carcinoma of the penis: Incidence, age and sex

Carcinoma of the penis is an extremely uncommon malignant condition encountered in the general population. It is more frequently seen in elderly men as compared with men of younger age group.

Signs and symptoms of carcinoma of the penis: Diagnosis

Carcinoma of the penis usually presents as a painless lesion like a wart or a sore along with redness and irritation of the skin around it. Although this lesion can develop anywhere over the surface of penis, but the tip of the penis is the most common location for such lesions. In rare instances, when this abnormal lesion or growth on the penis is neglected, it may progress to become painful and may also cause bleeding in some individuals.

The best part of penile cancer is that it can be diagnosed at an early stage in most of the individuals. It is advisable to consult an urologist who will conduct a detailed physical examination before advising for biopsy. Biopsy requires excision of a small part of malignant tissue which will be examined under the microscope to view the cancer cells.

Causes and prevention of carcinoma of the penis

The exact cause of penile cancer is not clear but several risk factors have been documented to increase its incidence. Carcinoma of the penis afflicts uncircumcised men more frequently as compared with circumcised men. Prior infection with human papilloma virus or history of genital warts may predispose an individual to carcinoma of the penis. Likewise history of multiple sexual partners or sexually transmitted diseases may play an indirect role in causation of penile cancer. Furthermore, poor hygiene which causes an oily secretion called smegma to accumulate under foreskin may also increase the risk of penile cancer.

There are no definite preventive measures since cause of penile cancer is still not known. However certain steps like circumcision and maintaining good personal hygiene may diminish the risk of penile cancer.

Carcinoma of the penis: Complications

The carcinoma of the penis is usually diagnosed in early stages in most individuals, thus preventing any complications. However, in some instances of long standing and untreated cases, penile cancer may spread to lymph nodes and other tissues in the groin. Once the cancer has reached lymph nodes, it is fairly easy for it to spread to other organs via lymph fluid.

Carcinoma of the penis: Treatment

The treatment plan generally depends upon the severity, location and size of tumour growth. The expert opinion of an urologist and oncologist is essential in diagnosing and treating penile cancer. The treatment modalities include surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy. Surgical excision of malignant growth is the treatment of choice which may be combined with radiotherapy and/or chemotherapy for effective elimination of malignant cells. There are various surgical options which may be considered depending upon the size and site of tumour. The surgical modalities include partial penectomy for small sized cancers, wherein a small part of penis along with malignant growth is surgically removed. Total penectomy may be considered for large sized cancers, wherein the entire penis is surgically removed and another conduit and diversion for urinary flow is surgically reconstructed. Other modalities like laser surgery, cryosurgery or microsurgery may also be considered. Chemotherapy includes oral or intravenous administration of medications like cisplatin, bleomycin or methotrexate which should ideally be combined with surgery. Regular monitoring of adverse effects of these medications is of paramount importance. The survival rate of penile cancer is good, especially if diagnosed early and managed effectively.

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