Cancer changes not only our lives but also those around us. According to the World Health Organization, it is the leading cause of death worldwide, having a toll of about 10 million in 2020. Among all cases, prostate cancer is one of the most common cases in men. What some people might not know is there are also cases of penile cancer.
Regarding cancer cases related to the male reproductive system, the first concern that may change our lives are the chances of fertility. Today, we will share with you everything you need to know about fertility and penile cancer:
What is Penile Cancer?
Cancer is a disease caused by an abnormal growth of cells, which can start from any part of the body and spread to another. As for penile cancer, it is a disease where cancerous cells grow in the tissues of one’s penis.
Most cases of penile cancer start with cancer cells growing in the penis’ skin. That is why cases like these often involve dermatologists. It also includes urologic oncologists or doctors specializing in cancer involving the urinary tract, prostate problems, and such.
Penile cancer is highly treatable if caught early. Compared to other cases of cancer, this disease is also quite rare. In the United States, those diagnosed with penile cancer will only be 2,210 men. Only less than 1% of cancer cases in men are diagnosed with penile cancer or one in every 100,000 men.
Depending on the stage of penile cancer, the 5-year survival rate is generally 65%. If it was caught early and has not spread, the survival rate is 80%. For those cases where cancer has spread to surrounding tissues or lymph nodes, the 5-year survival rate is 50%. If it has already spread to remote parts of the body, the 5-year survival rate is 9%.
Types of Penile Cancer:
Penile cancer has several types:
- Squamous cell or epidermoid carcinoma – 95% of penile cancer cases are squamous cells or epidermoid carcinoma. Carcinoma refers to the type of cancer that grows in the skin or organs’ tissue linings. With squamous cell or epidermoid carcinoma of the penis, the abnormal cells start growing on the foreskin. It can also start on other areas of your penis.
- Sarcoma – Sarcoma is a tumor that grows in connective tissues such as the muscle, blood
- Melanoma – This type of cancer grows from cells that provide skin color or pigmentation.
- Basal cell carcinoma – This type of cancer appears on the skin and grows first deep in the basal cells.
What are the symptoms of penile cancer?
Like most cancer cases, penile cancer is curable if detected and treated early. While these symptoms do not immediately mean that you have penile cancer, it is still best to consult with a doctor and seek treatment:
- Lumps on the penis
- Lumps under the groin’s skin
- Swelling at the end of the penis
- Foul-smelling discharge under the foreskin
- Bleeding sores on the penis
- Changes in skin color or thickness
- Small crusty bumps or rashes looking like unhealed scabs on the penis
- Bluish-brown growths
Do penile cancer and its treatment cause infertility?
Since penile cancer is related to the reproductive system, the first concern of most patients is its effects on their fertility. As cancer affects how your organs work, it can also affect your fertility.
Infertility can be due to a tumor blocking or pressing on an organ, causing it to not work the way it is supposed to. Hormonal changes or problems due to cancer cells can also disrupt reproduction. One’s testicles may not be able to produce enough healthy sperm, or one’s sperm ejaculation can be affected.
Treatment for penile cancer can cause infertility more than the disease itself. While treatment is vital for your overall health, your ability to reproduce is one of the concerns you need to discuss with your doctor.
Cancer treatment affecting your fertility depends on:
- Fertility before the treatment
- Age during the treatment
- Type of cancer and its treatment
- Dose of treatment
- Length of treatment
- Time since the treatment
- Other health concerns
Questions to ask your doctor regarding fertility before penile cancer treatment:
Penile cancer treatment can affect your fertility. That is why before undergoing any procedure, you and your doctor must discuss your options. There are now measures to address your fertility even if you undergo treatment. Here are some of the questions you need to ask your doctor:
- Will this treatment increase risks or causes of infertility?
- Are there other options for penile cancer treatment that will not cause infertility?
- What are my options for fertility preservation?
- What are the fertility preservations available at this facility or hospital?
- Is there a fertility specialist whom I can talk to about my options for fertility preservation?
- Should I still use condoms after the treatment?
- Would you recommend birth control?
- Will my fertility return after treatment?
Cancer treatments that can affect fertility:
These treatments are vital for your health. However, they can cause lifetime effects such as changes in fertility. Discuss with your doctor to learn more about the risks of your fertility with the following treatments:
- Hormone therapy or endocrine therapy
- Radiation therapy
- Stem cell transplants
Fertility preservation for boys and men
With the options available now to preserve fertility, patients no longer feel the need to choose between treating cancer or risking becoming infertile. Talk to your doctor to discuss the following fertility preservation options:
- Sperm Banking
- Testicular Shielding
- Testicular Sperm Extraction
- Testicular tissue freezing
Alternative treatments for penile cancer
Options for fertility preservation help patients exhaust more options and live better lives. However, opting for fertility preservation and cancer treatment can be costly, leaving other patients without any choice.
The good thing is that facilities such as New Hope Medical Center offers alternative treatments that can help cancer patients. Treatments focus on building the immune system, detoxifying the body, and executing anti-tumor protocols. It focuses on keeping the body strong and healthy while destroying cancer cells through detoxification methods.
Call us today to know your options.