Cancerous tumours of the penis

A cancerous tumour of the penis can grow into and destroy nearby tissue. It can also spread (metastasize) to other parts of the body.

Squamous cell carcinoma

The most common type of penile cancer is squamous cell carcinoma (SCC). SCC starts in the squamous cells of the penis. Squamous cells are flat, scale-like skin cells. About 95% of penile cancers are SCCs. SCC can develop anywhere on the penis, but most develop on the foreskin (in uncircumcised men) or under the foreskin (called the glans or head). This type of cancer is typically slow growing. When found early, it is often curable.

Verrucous carcinoma is an uncommon type of SCC. It can occur in many areas of the skin and can look like a genital wart. Verrucous carcinomas are usually slow growing, but they can sometimes get very large and spread deep into surrounding tissue. In rare cases, they spread to lymph nodes or other parts of the body.

Some other types of SCC of the penis include warty carcinoma, basaloid carcinoma and neuroendocrine carcinoma.

Rare penile tumours

The following cancerous tumours of the penis are rare:

Expert review and references

  • American Cancer Society. Penile Cancer. 2015:
  • American Society of Clinical Oncology. Penile Cancer. 2014:
  • BC Cancer Agency. Penis. BC Cancer Agency; 2015:
  • Brosman SA . Penile cancer. WebMD LLC; 2011.
  • Chaux A & Cubilla AL . Diagnosis, epidemiology and pathology or penile cancer. Scardino PT, Lineham WM, Zelefsky MJ & Vogelzang NJ (eds.). Comprehensive Textbook of Genitourinary Oncology. 4th ed. Philadelphia: Wolters Kluwer/Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2011: 46: pp. 803-810.
  • National Cancer Institute. Penile CancerTreatment (PDQ®) Health Professional Version. Bethesda, MD: National Cancer Institute; 2011.
  • Penn Medicine. All about penile cancer. University of Pennsylvania; 2016:
  • Pizzocaro G, Algaba F, Horenblas S, et al . Guidelines on penile cancer. European Urology. Elsevier; 2010.
  • Trabulsi EJ, Gomell LG . Cancer of the urethra and penis. DeVita VT Jr, Lawrence TS, Rosenberg SA. Cancer: Principles & Practice of Oncology. 10th ed. Philadelphia: Wolters Kluwer Health/Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2015: 69:981-987.

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