Penile cancer is when abnormal cells in the penis start to divide and grow in an uncontrolled way.
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 and 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.
The parts of the penis are the:
- body or shaft
- foreskin, a moveable layer of skin that that covers the tip of the penis (glans)
- frenulum which is a ridge below the head of the penis
Some men have an operation called a circumcision to remove the foreskin.
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.
This diagram shows the parts of the penis.
This video shows you the different parts of the male reproductive system. It lasts for 1 minute and forty seconds.
The male reproductive system includes the penis, the testes and the epididymides held within the scrotum, the vas deferens and internally the seminal vesicles, and the prostate gland.
The penis is the male sex organ. It is made up of the shaft and the head. The head of the penis is covered by a moveable piece of skin called the foreskin
The urethra is a tube that runs from the bladder through the prostate gland and the middle of the penis, to carry urine out of the body. The penis has a rich blood supply, as well as a muscle layer and nerves. When sexually aroused the blood flow increases and it becomes erect. The testes produce sperm and the hormone testosterone.
At the back of each testis is the epididymis. A tube where sperm is stored. When the penis is erect sperm moves form the epididymis and through the vas deferens to the urethra
The seminal vesicles make a fluid that mixes with sperm in the urethra. The prostate gland is about the size of a walnut. It surrounds the first part of the urethra and adds more fluid to the sperm. During orgasm the prostate squeezes this fluid into the urethra and out of the body
For more information about cancers that can start in the male reproductive system, go to CRUK.org/cancer-types.
The lymph nodes
Lymph nodes, or lymph glands are small, bean shaped glands that make up part of the lymphatic system. They are all over the body, including in the pelvis. If penile cancer spreads it is most likely to be in the lymph nodes close to the penis.
Where it starts
Cancer can develop anywhere on the penis but most commonly develops under the foreskin in men who haven’t been circumcised, or on the head or tip of the penis (glans).
The type of penile cancer depends on the type of cell it starts in.
Who gets penile cancer
Most men diagnosed with penile cancer are older than 50. It rarely affects men under 40. The exact cause of penile cancer is not known but there are several risk factors including:
- human papilloma virus (HPV) – this is a common infection and for most people it causes no harm
How common it is
Penile cancer is very rare. Around 670 men are diagnosed each year in the UK. That’s around 2 cases diagnosed every day.