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Diagnosis and Treatment of Penile Cancer

Penile cancer occurs when cancer (malignant) cells are identified on the skin and in the tissues of the penis (the male sex organ). Penile cancer is very rare in the United States and Europe, accounting for only about 0.5% of all cancer in living men in these countries. Conversely, penile cancer accounts for 20% to 30% of all cancer in men living in Asia, Africa, or South America. Researchers believe that lower circumcision rates at birth and poor hygiene contribute to the higher incidence rates in these countries.

Each tissues in the penis contains several different types of cells. Therefore, penile cancer will vary depending on the cell type affected. Infection with the human papilloma virus (HPV) and/or the herpes virus is thought to be a risk factor for developing penile cancer. For example, two proteins created by the HPV can interfere with proteins that suppress tumor growth.

Types of Penile Cancer

Epidermoid Carcinoma
Epidermoid carcinoma (squamous cell carcinoma) accounts for 95% of penile cancers and develops from squamous cells. Although squamous cell  cancers can arise anywhere on the penis, they're seen on the foreskin (in an uncircumsized man) or on the glans (the cap-shaped expansion at the end of the penis).

Verrucous Carcinoma
Verrucous carcinoma (also called Buschke-Lowenstein tumor) is a much rarer form of squamous cell carcinoma of the penis. This is a low-grade tumor that can look like a genital wart, but can spread into surrounding tissues. These tumors rarely spread outside of the penis.

Adenocarcinoma
Adenocarcinoma ("adeno" for gland) is an extremely rare penile cancer that arises from sweat glands in the skin of the penis. These tumors have the potential to invade below the skin and spread to lymph nodes.

Melanoma
Melanomas represent about 2% of penile cancers. Melanomas begin in pigment-producing skin cells called melanocytes and, like other melanomas, penile melanoma can spread rapidly.

Basal Cell Cancers
Basal cell cancers account for approximately 2% of all penile cancers and are slow-growing tumors that rarely spreads to other body parts. These tumors develop in skin cells.

Sarcomas represent 1% of penile cancers and develop from connective tissue.

Stanford Cancer Center Expertise

The Stanford Cancer Center has brought together the expertise of Urologists, Oncologists, and Radiation Oncologists to comprise the Stanford Urologic Oncology Program. This means you will be offered a team approach to provide your care and to coordinate your most optimal treatment plan.  Your Stanford physician may also recommend that you be scheduled to meet with the Tumor Board.

Stanford researchers excel in the treatment of male genitourinary cancers and have combined certain therapies such as various "nerve-sparing" surgeries, hyperthermia combined with radiation, and other advanced treatments for penile cancer.

You may also be recommended for an ongoing clinical study, if appropriate. The Stanford Cancer Center features the most up-to-date advances in male cancer diagnosis and treatment. Your physician will discuss with you your desire to maintain or preserve your fertility after treatment and has a number of options for you to explore with your mate.

As would be expected with such a comprehensive approach, compassionate care tailored to your needs is a vital goal at the Stanford Cancer Center.

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