A cancer that begins on the penis

Penile cancer is a cancer that begins on the penis. There are several different types of penile cancer, including:

  • Squamous cell carcinoma
  • Adenocarcinoma
  • Melanoma
  • Basal cell
  • Sarcoma

Most penile cancers are squamous cell carcinomas. These are tumors that most often grow on the foreskin. It can usually be cured if it is caught early. 

Adenocarcinoma is a very rare type of penile cancer that develops in the sweat glands of the penis. Basal cell is slow growing and rarely spreads to other areas of the body. Melanoma is a type of skin cancer. Rarely, it occurs in other areas of the body, including the penis. Sarcomas are cancers that develop from smooth muscle, blood vessels or other connective tissue cells of the penis.

Penile cancer is rare in North America. Only 1 in 100,000 men will be diagnosed with penile cancer in their lifetime. The American Cancer Society estimates that slightly more than 2,100 cases of penile cancer will be diagnosed each year.


Surgery is the most common treatment for penile cancer. Your doctor will work closely with you to develop a plan that is right for you, your specific type of cancer and medical history. Other treatments options may include:

  • Radiation
  • Chemotherapy 
  • Local therapy

The urologic team at Penn State Cancer Institute includes three fellowship-trained surgeons. These surgeons have additional training and education in urologic surgery methods, including treatments for penile cancer. This highly skilled team delivers the latest advances in care, including:

  • Minimally-invasive surgical procedures (robotic surgery)
  • Standard, open surgery
  • Salvage surgeries following radiation
  • Surgery to address locally advanced cancer

We work closely with a multidisciplinary team of surgeons, medical oncologists and radiation oncologists, making sure you get the care you need to effectively treat and manage your penile cancer. 

Symptoms and Diagnosis

Penile cancer is cancer that starts in the penis, an organ that makes up part of the male reproductive system.


Early symptoms of penile cancer include:

  • Changes to the skin, including lumps, a bleeding ulcer, a rash or smelly discharge
  • Swelling at the end of the penis
  • Lumps under the groin area, which may mean the cancer has spread

Talk to your doctor if you have any of these symptoms.


Your doctor will give you a complete exam and ask you questions about your personal and family medical history. You may also need additional tests, including:

  • A biopsy to study abnormal growths and identify cancerous cells
  • Imaging tests to get a clearer picture of abnormalities and if cancer has spread to other areas of your body

Your doctor will explain the results of your tests and discuss your treatment options. Together, you will develop a plan that is right for you and your cancer.

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