Cancer can be defined as an excessive abnormal growth of cells and it is named by its organ of origin. In case of penile cancer the organ of origin is the male reproductive organ which is called penis, thus the name penile cancer has been given. The signs and symptoms to detect penile cancer include some skin changes or appearance changes, a visible sore ulcer or a lump, some kind of rashes, abnormal pungent discharge from the penis having a bad disgusting odour. However these symptoms can be associated with number of other conditions also. Not necessary that it is cancer.
For confirmation and diagnosis there are other tests, these signs just help you in taking the first step and consulting the doctor. The factors that increase risk of developing penile cancer are circumcision, infection caused by human papilloma virus (HPV), smoking, increasing age especially above 60, not keeping proper hygiene and cleanliness and a history of having too many different sexual partners. Usually a physical examination, blood test and a biopsy are done to identify case of a penile cancer. Now we will be discussing the different options available for treatment of penile cancer.
Surgery for penile cancer is of many types and the choice of surgery depends on the stage of penile cancer and the area which is affected. A technique called Mohs microsurgery is performed when the cancer has not spread a lot and it involves removing the skin cells layer by layer. Thus only the affected part is removed. It is called microsurgery which means the healthy cells are spared. The next type of surgery is the laser surgery which involves using a very high intensity beam of laser light which is focussed on the affected area and this laser acts as a sharp object which removes the cancerous cells.
This technique is bloodless and is used in bit higher stages. A newer technique of surgery is the cryofreeze or cryotherapy where the cancerous cells are frozen with the help of liquid nitrogen. These frozen cells are then scrapped off the normal tissues. Other surgical methods aim at removing the affected area; so either the foreskin is removed or other affected parts are surgically removed. In cases where the cancer has spread to the entire penis, the complete penis is surgically removed. This is called total penectomy. Now one thing to remember here is that just the surgery is not sufficient to remove cancer completely. Other therapies like chemo and radiotherapy also have to be given concomitantly.
Chemotherapy is basically using drugs to kill bad cancerous cells or to stop growth of cancerous cells. These drugs can be given orally or as an injection or even applied locally. Usually chemotherapy is given along with other treatments. The choice and dose of drug depends on the stage of cancer.
As chemotherapy uses drugs to kill bad cells, similarly radiotherapy uses very high intensity X-rays to kill the cancerous cells. These X rays are targeted on the affected area and are given either to stop growth of cancer cells or to kill the existing cancerous cells. Again its intensity and other characteristics depend on the type and stage of penile cancer.
Newer Upcoming Techniques
We glanced through the traditional approaches in penile cancer management; let us now have a look at the newer approaches. These are use of biologics (drugs which boost and strengthen the patient’s immune system so that body can itself fight against cancerous cells), use of radiosensitizers (they make the cancer cells over sensitive to radiation and due to which a combination of radiotherapy and sensitizers is used for best results), lymph node biopsy etc. No matter how new or advanced the technique is, it is always very crucial that the patient must meet and follow up with the doctor regularly. This is important as the chances of recurrences in penile cancer are very high.
In most of the cases, an early and correct diagnosis of the penile cancer is very important as it prevents extreme consequences of penectomy and severe spread of cancer to other parts. The patient must also take care of his eating practices and must stay hydrated throughout the day. Improving eating habits overall keeps the body healthy and fine which indirectly reduces chances of getting penile cancer or even you can say any disease. In an attempt to prevent penile cancer it is best to quit smoking, limit alcohol intake to moderate, keep the personal parts clean, use condoms during sex etc. Rush to your doctor if you detect any signs.