Signs and Symptoms

I was misdiagnosed with balanitis and sent away with some creams that I couldn’t use.  A week or so went by, and nothing changed so I went back. My lump was bigger, my skin was thicker and the marble sized lump in my groin had started to show.  I asked for a referral but was sent to the sexual health clinic instead.  More negative tests and another two weeks went by, and my GP was out of ideas.

Over the next 8 months I also visited the local doctor and dermatologist at least six more times regarding the wart on my penis as the cream was not working and it was getting larger. Then eight months after my initial consultation with the dermatologist I was finally diagnosed with Bowens Disease, with invasive SCC. In short, it was Penile Cancer.

One of the biggest problems associated with penile cancer is a delay in diagnosis. This can occur because men do not seek medical advice early enough but can also be due to the unfamiliarity of the disease amongst health care professionals. Many GPs will never see a case of penile cancer in their careers. Early symptoms, especially rashes, can mimic many non-cancerous conditions such as balanitis (inflammation of the head or shaft of the penis), or sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Men may be treated with several courses of topical ointments or steroidal creams while some men are referred non-urgently, to dermatologists or sexual health clinics delaying diagnosis. Most treatment for penile cancer will involve surgery to the penis, so the longer the disease is untreated the more invasive subsequent surgery may become.

Possible symptoms of penile cancer may include:


  • Rash
  • Growth/lesion/lump
  • Swelling
  • Bleeding
  • Ulcer
  • Discharge
  • Change in colour of foreskin.


Lumps felt under the skin or in the groin area.

Any abnormal rash, lesion, ulcer, or discharge, on or from the penis should be checked by a doctor as soon as possible. If it is not possible to identify an obvious cause, men should be referred to a urologist for urgent assessment, especially if a condition has not resolved after an initial treatment with topical therapy.

Useful links

Current NICE Guidelines

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    Reviewed November 2023