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HPV-linked penile cancer increasingly affecting younger men
Published Sunday, March 3, 2019 10:00PM EST
Although it remains incredibly rare, penile cancer is increasingly affecting younger men.
“It used to be uniformly a disease of older men, or even much older men up into their 70s and 80s, and now we’re seeing cases in 30 and 40 year olds,” Dr. Juanita Crook, a radiation oncologist with the BC Cancer Foundation, told CTV News from Kelowna, B.C.
About 50 per cent of new cases, Crook adds, are associated with the human papillomavirus, or HPV for short, which has also been linked to cervical and oral cancers.
“With the increasing prevalence of human papillomavirus in the population, penile cancer is increasing,” Crook said. “If (men) have had exposure before to human papillomavirus, especially in the form of genital warts at a younger age or things like that, then they should be aware if they notice anything unusual (or) different on their penis.”
‘I DIDN’T REALLY THINK THAT THERE WAS ANYTHING WRONG’
It is estimated that in Canada, a man is diagnosed with this rare but potentially devastating form of cancer every two days. Many often fail to seek medical help before it spreads.
That’s why people like Newfoundlander Barry Ducey are sharing their stories.
“I had penile cancer,” Ducey declared in a 2016 YouTube video, using comedic delivery to delve into a heavy topic. “(If) there’s a lump or something abnormal on there, give ‘er a check and go have a doctor check it out. Don’t be afraid. You damn well don’t want to lose your junk.”
That video received dozens of comments from men who were inspired by Ducey to get themselves checked.
Trevor, who did not want CTV News to use his last name, is also sounding the alarm.
“At the beginning, it was a fairly small bump so I didn’t really think that there was anything wrong,” he told CTV News.
He says he ignored worsening signs for more than a decade until finally showing his penis to a doctor in 2011.
“Throughout the years, when it did grow, it became more sensitive to the point where it became more painful,” Trevor explained. “I didn't take it as serious as I should have and basically (that was because of) just the embarrassment of where it was.”
‘IT SHOULDN’T BE A DISEASE THAT IS EVER ADVANCED’
Early symptoms of penile cancer can include unusual discolouration, rashes, bumps or pimples that don’t go away.
“There’s no pain, it’s not itchy, it’s just something that’s there that shouldn’t be there and that’s why they need to have it checked out,” Crook cautioned. “By the time this will cause pain or bleeding, it’s a much more advanced state.”
Caught early enough, penile cancer can be effectively treated with surgery and radiation using a special device that the penis fits into. Advanced cases, Crook warns, can lead to amputation and even death.
“Once this cancer has had a chance to spread to the lymph nodes in the groin area, and then it goes on to the pelvis, it has a high fatality rate,” she said. “(But) it shouldn’t be a disease that is ever advanced because men handle their penis at least half a dozen times a day.”
‘GO SEE A DOCTOR’
Fortunately for Trevor, his penile cancer was caught before it spread and he was soon treated with radiation by Dr. Crook. That procedure, Trevor said, went “extremely well” and now he “couldn’t be more happier.”
“The recovery time was very quick,” Trevor, who has been cancer-free for eight years now, added. “The whole experience put life in a whole new perspective for myself.”
Ducey also is now also cancer-free.
“I’m not looking down and seeing that I got half of my penis missing because I’d neglected to go see a doctor,” he said. “So please guys, please: go see a doctor if you see any lumps.”