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The penis is the external male sexual organ, as well as part of the urinary system. It has several types of body tissues, including skin, nerves, smooth muscle, and blood vessels. In addition to its sexual function, the penis acts as a conduit for urine to leave the body.
Penile cancer develops in or on the penis. Cancer starts when cells begin to grow out of control. Cells in nearly any part of the body can become cancer, and can spread to other areas in the body.
Almost all penile cancers start in the skin, so they are often noticed early in the course of the disease. Cancers that start under the foreskin may not be seen as quickly, especially if a man has phimosis (constriction of the foreskin). Some penile cancers may cause symptoms that could also be caused by a disease other than cancer.
Even if a man sees or feels something abnormal, he may not recognize it as something that needs medical attention right away. You should see a doctor if you find a new growth or other abnormality of your penis, even if it is not painful. Things like warts, blisters, sores, ulcers, white patches, or other abnormal areas need to be looked at by a doctor. Most are not cancer, but they may be caused by an infection or some other condition that needs to be treated.