Penile cancer

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Signs and symptoms of penile cancer

A sign is something that can be observed and recognized by a doctor or healthcare professional (for example, a rash). A symptom is something that only the person experiencing it can feel and know (for example, pain or tiredness). The signs and symptoms of penile cancer can also be caused by other health conditions. It is important to have any unusual symptoms checked by a doctor.

Many cases of penile cancer can be found early because symptoms cause men to see a doctor. However, some men are embarrassed or reluctant to see a doctor when they have symptoms and may delay seeking treatment.

Signs and symptoms of penile cancer include:

  • a growth or sore that doesn’t heal
    • Growths or sores occur most often on the glans or foreskin, but they sometimes appear on the shaft of the penis.
    • They may or may not be painful.
  • a change in the colour of the penis
    • The discoloured area often appears as a flat, bluish-brown growth or a reddish, velvety patch or rash.
    • The foreskin may have to be pulled back to see the discoloured area.
  • redness or irritation of the penis
  • a lump or thickening of the skin on the penis
  • foreskin that does not pull back (retract) fully
    • This condition is called phimosis.
  • foul-smelling discharge or bleeding from the penis or from underneath the foreskin
    • Bleeding may also occur when a man has an erection.
  • itching or burning under the foreskin
  • swelling of the penis
  • lump in the groin
    • Lymph nodes in the groin may become swollen and feel like a lump.
  • pain during urination (dysuria)

Late signs and symptoms

Late signs and symptoms occur as the cancer grows larger or spreads to other parts of the body, including other organs.

  • severe change in the appearance of the shaft of the penis
  • ulceration of the urethra
    • This can cause abnormal urination from the perineum (the area between the scrotum and the rectum) that looks like water being poured out of a watering can (“watering-can perineum”).
  • ulcer (sore) in the groin area
  • fatigue
  • stomach pain
  • bone pain
  • weight loss
  • weakness
  • swelling of the legs


Canadian Cancer Trials Group researcher Dr Christopher O’Callaghan The Canadian Cancer Trials Group is improving glioblastoma survival in the elderly.

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