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The penis

Men and women discussing penile cancer

This page tells you about the penis. You can find information on

 

A quick guide to what's on this page

The penis

The penis is the male sex organ. It is part of the urinary and reproductive system in the body. It has a tube called the urethra that carries urine from the bladder to the outside of the body. The urethra also carries semen (sperm) from the testicles.

The root is the base of the penis and is inside the body. The main part of the penis is the body or shaft. The glans or head is the tip of the penis. A moveable layer of skin called the foreskin covers the glans.  Some men have an operation to remove the foreskin. This is called a circumcision.

When sexually aroused, blood flow to the penis increases. Columns of special muscle tissue in the body of the penis (erectile tissue) fill up with blood. This makes it upright (an erection).

Cancer of the penis

Cancer can develop anywhere on the penis but most commonly develops

  • Under the foreskin in men who haven’t been circumcised
  • On the head of the penis (glans)

Lymph nodes

Lymph nodes are small, bean shaped glands that make up part of the lymphatic system. They are also called lymph glands. Cancer cells that break away from a tumour usually reach nearby lymph nodes first. Your surgeon may remove some of the lymph nodes in your groin during surgery.

 

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Parts of the penis

The penis is the male sex organ. It is part of the urinary and reproductive system in the body. It has a tube called the urethra that carries urine from the bladder to the outside of the body. The urethra also carries semen (sperm) from the testicles.

The root is the base of the penis and is inside the body. From here it extends to the outside. It hangs in front of a pouch of skin called the scrotum. The scrotum holds both testicles.

Diagram showing the penis and nearby organs

This diagram shows the parts of the penis.

Diagram showing the anatomy of the penis

The main part of the penis is the body or shaft. The glans or head is the tip of the penis. A moveable layer of skin, the foreskin, covers the glans. Some men have an operation to remove the foreskin. This is called a circumcision. Below the head of the penis is a ridge called the frenulum. For most men, the frenulum is the most sensitive part of their penis.

Different types of tissue including skin, muscle and nerves make up the penis. It has a rich blood supply. When sexually aroused, blood flow to the penis increases. Columns of special muscle tissue in the body of the penis (erectile tissue) fill up with blood. This makes it upright (an erection) during sexual activity.

 

Cancer of the penis

Penile cancer is very rare. There are around 600 cases in the UK every year. If found early, the chances of curing it are very high. Cancer can develop anywhere on the penis but most commonly develops

  • Under the foreskin in men who haven’t been circumcised
  • On the head of the penis (glans)
 

The lymph nodes

Lymph nodes are small, bean shaped glands that make up part of the lymphatic system. They are also called lymph glands.

Lymph nodes are all over the body, including close to the penis in the groin area. Cancer cells that break away from a tumour usually reach nearby lymph nodes first. Your surgeon may remove some of the lymph nodes in your groin during surgery

Diagram showing the lymph nodes in the groin in a man

A specialist doctor looks at the lymph nodes under a microscope to see if they contain cancer cells. This tells the doctor the stage of penile cancer. It also helps with choosing the most suitable treatment for you.

Find out more about the lymph glands and the lymphatic system.

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Updated: 10 March 2016