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Just about every man's worst nightmare.
Penile cancer is very rare — there's just one case for every 100,000 men each year in the UK — but uncircumcised men over 60 are at greater risk.
The exact cause of penile cancer is unknown. However, build-up of smegma (a smelly, cheese-like substance) under the foreskin is believed to be a factor because it can lead to chronic (i.e. long-term) inflammation. The disease is almost unknown among men who were circumcised shortly after birth.
Your best bet is to wash your penis thoroughly every day, especially if you are uncircumcised.
You should see your doctor immediately if you find a lump on your penis. Your GP will perform a physical examination that can rule out any other conditions. He or she can refer you on to a hospital specialist for more detailed assessment.
The treatment depends on the size and location of the tumour.
The first step is usually removal of the lump combined with circumcision. If the lump is too large to be removed without causing disfigurement then the surgeon will take only a small portion for analysis (biopsy). If penile cancer is confirmed then other options are possible:
If you are uncircumcised, you should clean behind your foreskin regularly.
The outcome can be good if you are diagnosed and treated early. However, cancer of the penis often spreads to other parts of the body in the early stages of the disease. If the disease has not reached the lymph glands then between 65% and 90% of men survive for five years or more.
If a partial or total penectomy is performed then a new exit point for the urethra (water pipe) will have been fashioned at the time of surgery (this procedure is known as a urethrostomy). Sexual functioning can be maintained even when a large part of the penis has been removed, although your erection will be impaired. You will need time to get used to the appearance of the penis. It is likely to be distressing at first and counselling may be helpful. Joining a support group of other men affected may also help.
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Date of last review 07/04/14
Date of next review 03/04/17
It’s tough for men to ask for help but if you don’t ask when you need it, things generally only get worse. So we’re asking.
In the UK, one man in five dies before the age of 65. If we had health policies and services that better reflected the needs of the whole population, it might not be like that. But it is. Policies and services and indeed men have been like this for a long time and they don’t change overnight just because we want them to.
It’s true that the UK’s men don’t have it bad compared to some other groups. We’re not asking you to ‘feel sorry’ for men or put them first. We’re talking here about something more complicated, something that falls outside the traditional charity fund-raising model of ‘doing something for those less fortunate than ourselves’. That model raises money but it seldom changes much. We’re talking about changing the way we look at the world. There is nothing inevitable about premature male death. Services accessible to all, a population better informed. These would benefit everyone - rich and poor, young and old, male and female - and that’s what we’re campaigning for.
We’re not asking you to look at images of pity, we’re just asking you to look around at the society you live in, at the men you know and at the families with sons, fathers and grandads missing.
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