Penile cancer

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Non-cancerous conditions of the penis

A non-cancerous (benign) condition of the penis is a change to cells of the penis, but it is not cancer. Non-cancerous conditions do not spread (metastasize) to other parts of the body and are not usually life-threatening.

Most benign conditions of the penis affect the glans (head) and foreskin, but they may also affect the shaft. Genital warts are the most common non-cancerous condition of the penis.

Genital warts

Genital warts (condylomata) are a common non-cancerous condition of the penis. They are a common type of sexually transmitted infection caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV). They are also called condyloma acuminata or venereal warts.

Risk factors

The following risk factors may increase your chance of developing genital warts:

  • history of HPV infection
  • multiple sexual partners
  • sexually active at an early age
  • weakened immune system

Symptoms

The signs and symptoms of genital warts include growths that may look like cauliflowers that are grey, white or the same colour as your skin. These can happen anywhere on the penis, the nearby perineal skin or the anus. They vary in size from microscopic (tiny) to a few centimetres and are usually painless but may have a discharge and be itchy. They may bleed, and they can make it hard to urinate if they block part of the opening of the urethra.

Other signs and symptoms include:

  • higher than normal amount of dampness in the genital area
  • itchiness

It is not always obvious when a person has genital warts. You might not be able to see or feel them. But even if the genital warts are not obvious, they may still be contagious (can spread from one person to another).

Diagnosis

If you have symptoms or your doctor thinks you might have genital warts, tests will be done to make a diagnosis. Tests may include:

  • acetowhitening – an acid solution is applied to the growth for 5 to 10 minutes, and areas containing genital warts turn white
  • biopsy
  • HPV testing

Treatment

Treatment options for genital warts include:

  • cryosurgery
  • laser surgery
  • curettage and electrodesiccation
  • topical drug therapy – topical means the drug is put directly onto the skin with a cream or gel
  • surgery

human papillomavirus (HPV)

A type of virus that causes abnormal tissue growth (warts) and other changes to cells.

There are over 100 types of HPV. Most types of HPV cause harmless warts on the hands, fingers, feet and even the face. Some types of HPV cause genital warts, are associated with an increased risk of several different types of cancer, including cancers of the cervix, oropharynx, anus, penis and vulva.

curettage

A procedure that uses a curette (a spoon-shaped instrument with a sharp edge) to remove cells, tissues or growths from the wall of a body cavity or other surfaces.

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