Symptoms of penile cancer

The symptoms of cancer of the penis can include:

  • a growth or sore on your penis
  • bleeding or a foul smelling discharge
  • a rash on your penis
  • difficulty pulling back your foreskin
  • a change in colour of your penis or foreskin

The symptoms listed here are more often caused by other medical conditions. But if you have any of them it is important to see your GP.

A growth or sore on your penis

A growth or sore on your penis that doesn't heal within 4 weeks can be a symptom of penile cancer. It can look like a wart, ulcer or blister and might not be painful. It is important to know what is normal for you.

Tell you doctor about any changes.

Bleeding from your penis

Bleeding can be a sign of cancer, including from under your foreskin.

A foul smelling discharge

A foul smelling discharge can occur due to an infection or because something is irritating the skin of the penis. It can also be due to not washing often or thoroughly enough. Cancer of the penis is a much less common cause.

If you do not wash your penis every day, a cheese-like substance called smegma can build up. This is different from constant discharge. It is important to see your doctor if you notice something unusual for you.

A rash on your penis

You may notice that a rash develops on your penis. It is important to be aware of what is normal for you and report any changes to your doctor.

Difficulty in drawing back your foreskin (phimosis)

You may notice it becomes more difficult to draw back your foreskin.

A change in the colour of your penis or foreskin

You may see changes to the colour of your penis or foreskin. It is important to be aware of what is normal for you and report any changes to your doctor.

Other rarer symptoms

These symptoms can be a sign of a more advanced cancer:

  • a lump in the groin
  • feeling tired
  • abdominal (tummy) pain
  • pain in the bones
  • loss of weight
When to see your doctor

You should see your doctor if you have:

  • a growth or sore on the penis that doesn’t heal within four weeks
  • symptoms that are unusual for you
  • symptoms that don’t go away

These symptoms don't always mean you have penile cancer. They may be symptoms of other medical conditions, such as sexually transmitted diseases.

It is not unusual to feel embarrassed or frightened by such symptoms. It is easy to put off going to your doctor. But it is important to get any symptoms checked by a doctor straight away. This means that if you have cancer, you can get it diagnosed and treated early.

  • Suspected cancer: recognition and referral
    National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), 2015. Last updated October 2023

  • European Association of Urology-American Society of Clinical Oncology Collaborative Guideline on Penile Cancer: 2023 Update
    O Brouwer and others
    European Urology, 2023, Volume 83, Issue 6, Pages 548-560

  • Cancer: Principles and Practice of Oncology (12th edition)
    VT DeVita, TS Lawrence, SA Rosenberg
    Wolters Kluwer, 2023

  • Management of Penile Cancer
    DJ Culkin
    Springer New York, 2014

  • Epidemiology and natural history of penile cancer
    MR​ Pow-Sang and others
    Urology, 2010. Volume 76, Issue 2

  • The information on this page is based on literature searches and specialist checking. We used many references and there are too many to list here. Please contact with details of the particular issue you are interested in if you need additional references for this information.

Last reviewed: 
15 Dec 2023
Next review due: 
15 Dec 2026

Related links