In the last 10 years, Brazil has recorded more than 6 thousand penile amputations, an average of more than 600 amputations per year, according to a compilation made by the Brazilian Society of Urology (SBU), based on data from the Ministry of Health. In this period, the measure was used to treat three in 10 patients diagnosed with severe penile cancer – which, according to the SBU, can be avoided with simple measures, such as good hygiene habits and HPV vaccination.
Urologist Maurício Dener Cordeiro, coordinator of the Department of Uro-Oncology at SBU, notes that the number of amputations is extremely high and is mainly due to misinformation. “Many people don’t even know that it’s possible to have penile cancer, they don’t seek out specialists and end up receiving the diagnosis too late,” he says.
When identified in early stagepenile cancer has high chance of cure and can be treated less aggressively. In these cases, the tumor is restricted to the upper part of the skin and does not reach deeper structures. Therefore, it is possible to remove only the affected area – that is, without the need to remove the penis.
Amputation is for extreme situations. “In these cases, the urethra is placed on the perineum, and the patient has to start urinating sitting down, which can be a challenge,” says Cordeiro. In addition to the procedure altering the physical aspect, it is quite harmful in psychological terms, as it undermines the individual’s self-esteem.
What causes penile cancer?
It is a chronic infection of the foreskin (skin that covers the glans — head of the penis), which initially manifests as a wound that does not heal and evolves into an ulcer or serious injury. One of the most common causes is not adequate hygiene area, where fungi and bacteria can proliferate.
According to Maurício, hygiene in the region should be done every day, in the shower. “It is necessary to retract the foreskin, expose the glans and wash the area with soap and water. Patients with phimosis (difficulty exposing the glans) are at greater risk of developing the disease and may resort to surgical removal of the foreskin to facilitate hygiene” .
Furthermore, penile cancer can arise as a result of virus infection HPV (the human papillomavirus), which affects around 9 million people in Brazil. It is a sexually transmitted virus that, in women, causes cervical cancer. To avoid contamination, it is recommended to use condoms during sexual intercourse, in addition to vaccination against the virus – available in the SUS for the population aged 9 to 14 and immunosuppressed up to 45 years of age.
To avoid a late diagnosis and thus undergo less invasive treatment, it is essential to be aware of the occurrence of any of these symptoms – and not hesitate to seek out a specialist doctor:
- Wound that does not heal;
- Secretion with a strong odor;
- Thickening or change in color in the skin of the glans (head of the penis);
- Presence of nodules in the groin.