What is penile cancer?
Penile cancer is a rare type of cancer that occurs on the surface of the penis or in the penis. Almost 50 men are diagnosed with penile cancer in Ireland every year. It most commonly affects men over the age of 50.
Almost all penile cancers are squamous cell cancers. Squamous cells are found in the skin and cover the surface of many parts of the body.
What is the penis and what does it do?
The penis is the male sex organ. It also allows urine (pee) to leave the body.
It is part of the male reproductive system. When the penis is stimulated, the penile arteries dilate and the muscles contract. This causes an erection, which is necessary for sexual intercourse. Part of the penis – the urethra, which is a narrow tube that runs the length of the penis – transports semen (sperm) from the testicles to outside the body.
The urethra is also part of the urinary system. It transports urine from the bladder to the outside of the body. There is a valve (sphincter) in the root of the penis which, when relaxed, allows urine to flow through the urethra and out of the body.
The penis has three main parts: the root, the body (shaft), and the head of the penis (glans), which is the cone-shaped end of the penis. The head of the penis is covered with a loose layer of skin called the foreskin. Sometimes males are circumcised, which means this layer of skin is removed. The opening of the urethra is at the tip of the glans. The penis hangs in front of a pouch of skin called the scrotum. The scrotum holds both testicles.
We use the term ‘man / men’ in our penile cancer information but we understand that not everyone who has a penis identifies as a man.
Whoever you are, wherever you come from, we are here for you. For confidential advice, information and support, contact our Support Line on Freephone 1800 200 700.
Medical review by Ivor Cullen, Consultant Urologist and Andrologist, Eva Browne, Urology Specialist Registrar, Anne Daniels, Urology Nurse Specialist. November 2020
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