A Brazilian Society of Urology (SBU) is launching today the Campaign to Prevent and Combat Penile Canceraiming to raise awareness among Brazilians about the importance of prevention. According to data from the Ministry of Health, between 2012 and November 2022, the country recorded 21,766 cases of penile cancer, resulting in 6,456 amputations of the male genital organ in the period from 2013 to 2023, with an annual average of around 600 amputations . In the period from 2011 to 2021, more than 4 thousand deaths were attributed to this disease in Brazil.
This campaign, now in its fourth edition, coincides with World Cancer Day, which will be celebrated on Sunday (4).
Luiz Otávio Torres, president of the SBU, highlights that more than half of diagnosed cases occur in advanced stages of the disease. In an interview with Agência Brasil, he highlights that penile cancer is the only type that can be prevented with soap and water, emphasizing the importance of adequate hygiene of the organ.
The highest incidence of the disease is observed in the North and Northeast regions of Brazil, being strongly linked to socioeconomic level. Torres highlights that social factors, such as lack of hygiene habits, and economic factors play a significant role in this scenario. Those with better socioeconomic conditions generally have access to more information and resources to prevent the disease.
The SBU is seeking public hospitals to join the campaign across the country, so that they can offer conditions for free surgeries. Teams of urologists from the 24 sections of the SBU will carry out postectomy (removal of the foreskin) in cases where it does not fully expose the glans, or head of the penis and, by extension, does not allow for correct hygiene of the penis. It is necessary to find a place and material to perform the surgeries. “We are trying to carry out the campaign in as many SBU sections as possible. We have 29 days in February to try,” said Torres.
Throughout the month of February, SBU doctors will clarify doubts about the disease on the entity’s social networks on Instagram, Facebook and Tik Tok.
“It’s not about doing a postectomy on everyone,” the doctor highlighted. He explained that the procedure is indicated when a man has true phimosis, that is, when he pulls the foreskin, the skin, and does not expose the glans. “It can’t wash it. When he has the foreskin, he pulls it and exposes the glans, he doesn’t need to remove the foreskin. Just wash your penis.”
Torres recalled that, many times, people have poor socioeconomic conditions and do not wash their penis. “So, it is better to remove the foreskin because the glans is exposed. Even if he doesn’t wash it, his foreskin doesn’t hold the dirt inside.” In previous editions of the campaign, doctors affiliated with the SBU performed more than 200 postectomies per year.
The most common signs of penile cancer include persistent sores, discharge with a strong odor and changes in the color or thickness of the glans skin. The president of the SBU emphasizes that such external lesions, especially when accompanied by persistent itching, can develop into cancer. In advanced stages, nodules may appear in the groin area.
Smoking is among the known risk factors, with a higher incidence among smokers, as explained by Torres. Although most cases occur in men over the age of 50, cases in younger age groups are not uncommon, often associated with HPV infection.
The HPV vaccine is a crucial preventive measure, available free of charge in the Unified Health System (SUS) for boys and girls aged 9 to 14. In addition to adequate personal hygiene and abstaining from smoking, vaccination in adolescence is emphasized as an essential strategy for preventing penile cancer. The use of condoms is also recommended to prevent the transmission of sexually transmitted infections, including HPV.
Brazil, together with countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, is among the three with the highest incidence and mortality from penile cancer, a situation strongly related to habits and access to information, as highlighted by Torres.
When diagnosed early, the disease has a high cure rate. Doctor Roni de Carvalho Fernandes, director of the Escola Superior de Urologia, emphasizes that in the initial stages, treatment often involves only removing the affected skin, avoiding the need for amputation of the organ.
According to the Latin American and Caribbean Code against Cancer, countries in Latin America and the Caribbean face the highest incidence of this disease in the world.
From the Editor with Agência Brasil