Penile cancer usually forms on or under the foreskin. Human papillomavirus (HPV) causes about one-third of penile cancer cases. When found early, penile cancer is usually curable. Explore the links on this page to learn more about penile cancer treatment and clinical trials.

Penile Cancer Treatment

  • Penile cancer is a disease in which malignant (cancer) cells form in the tissues of the penis.
  • Human papillomavirus infection may increase the risk of developing penile cancer.
  • Signs of penile cancer include sores, discharge, and bleeding.
  • Tests that examine the penis are used to detect (find) and diagnose penile cancer.
  • Certain factors affect prognosis (chance of recovery) and treatment options.

The penis is a rod-shaped male reproductive organ that passes sperm and urine from the body. It contains two types of erectile tissue (spongy tissue with blood vessels that fill with blood to make an erection):

  • Corpora cavernosa: The two columns of erectile tissue that form most of the penis.
  • Corpus spongiosum: The single column of erectile tissue that forms a small portion of the penis. The corpus spongiosum surrounds the urethra (the tube through which urine and sperm pass from the body).

The erectile tissue is wrapped in connective tissue and covered with skin. The glans (head of the penis) is covered with loose skin called the foreskin.

Signs of penile cancer include sores, discharge, and bleeding.

These and other signs may be caused by penile cancer or by other conditions. Check with your doctor if you have any of the following:

  • Redness, irritation, or a sore on the penis.
  • A lump on the penis.

Certain factors affect prognosis (chance of recovery) and treatment options.

The prognosis (chance of recovery) and treatment options depend on the following:

  • The stage of the cancer.
  • The location and size of the tumor.
  • Whether the cancer has just been diagnosed or has recurred (come back).

Stages of Penile Cancer

Stage I

In stage I, cancer has formed and spread to tissue just under the skin of the penis. Cancer has not spread to lymph vessels, blood vessels, or nerves. The cancer cells look more like normal cells under a microscope.

Stage II

Stage II is divided into stages IIA and IIB.

In stage IIA, cancer has spread:

  • to tissue just under the skin of the penis. Cancer has spread to lymph vessels, blood vessels, and/or nerves; or
  • to tissue just under the skin of the penis. Under a microscope, the cancer cells look very abnormal or the cells are sarcomatoid; or
  • into the corpus spongiosum (spongy erectile tissue in the shaft and glans that fills with blood to make an erection).

In stage IIB, cancer has spread:

  • through the layer of connective tissue that surrounds the corpus cavernosum and into the corpus cavernosum (spongy erectile tissue that runs along the shaft of the penis).

Stage III

Stage III is divided into stages IIIA and stage IIIB. Cancer is found in the penis.

  • In stage IIIA, cancer has spread to 1 or 2 lymph nodes on one side of the groin.
  • In stage IIIB, cancer has spread to 3 or more lymph nodes on one side of the groin or to lymph nodes on both sides of the groin.

Stage IV

In stage IV, cancer has spread:

  • to tissues near the penis, such as the scrotum, prostate, or pubic bone, and may have spread to lymph nodes in the groin or pelvis; or
  • to one or more lymph nodes in the pelvis, or cancer has spread through the outer covering of the lymph nodes to nearby tissue; or
  • to lymph nodes outside the pelvis or to other parts of the body, such as the lung, liver, or bone.


What is Cancer?

  • Cancer can start almost anywhere in the human body, which is made up of trillions of cells. Normally, human cells grow and divide to form new cells as the body needs them. When cells grow old or become damaged, they die, and new cells take their place.

  • Cancer prevention is action taken to lower the risk of getting cancer. This can include maintaining a healthy lifestyle, avoiding exposure to known cancer-causing substances, and taking medicines or vaccines that can prevent cancer from developing.

  • Cancer can cause many different symptoms. Most often these symptoms are not caused by cancer, but by benign tumors or other problems. If you have symptoms that last for a couple of weeks, your doctor will do a physical exam and order tests or other procedures to find out what is causing your symptoms.