Men who have Peyronie’s disease - where the penis curves dramatically - could have an increased risk of developing cancer, according to a new study.
The study of 1.5 million men by researchers from Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, suggested men with the condition have a 40% increased risk of developing testicular cancer, a 40% increased risk of developing stomach cancer and a 29% increased risk of developing skin cancer (melanoma), according to The Telegraph.
But Dr Helen Webberley, who runs the online healthcare service My Web Doctor, said “we need to be very careful that this [research] is fully evaluated before people start to worry”. She added: “We also need to be careful that very ‘normal’ men with a slight bend do not get swept up in this association.”
Off the back of the study, we looked into the symptoms and causes of Peyronie’s disease, as well as how to get treated.
What is Peyronie’s disease?
“Many men have a bend or a mild curvature of the penis,” Dr Webberley explained. “Peyronie’s disease is a different thing altogether. It is a rare condition where there is true fibrosis in the shaft of the penis leading to a marked bend and difficulties with urination and sex.”
If you have any of the following symptoms, you should see your GP:
:: a thickened area or hard lump (plaque) in the shaft of the penis
:: a curve in the penis when it’s erect
:: pain in the penis, usually during an erection
:: the penis looking misshapen, like an hour glass
:: loss of length or girth of the penis.
According to the British Association of Urological Surgeons (BAUS), Peyronie’s disease affects approximately one in every 16 men (6%), however many urologists believe it’s under-reported, possibly affecting as many as one in 10 men (10%). Most men affected are over the age of 40.
As previously mentioned, the condition causes the penis to curve. When a plaque grows on the top of the penis, for example, it can cause the penis to bend upward and when it grows on the underside, it causes a downward bend. In some cases, the plaque develops centrally, which can lead to indentation and shortening of the penis.
There are often two stages to the disease, according to BAUS: a painful, inflammatory phase which usually lasts for three to six months and a chronic or stable phase, which usually happens at least six months after the pain has stopped. During the latter stage, no new changes occur to the shape or curvature of the penis.
Peyronie’s disease is sometimes caused by injury to the penis, however in a lot of cases there’s no obvious reason as to why it develops.
The disease usually changes the shape of the penis permanently, meaning it won’t go back to the way it was before. That said, it won’t always affect men to the point where they need treatment, according to the NHS.
If Peyronie’s disease is affecting your sexual function or causing pain, you might be offered non-surgical treatment such as steroids which are injected into the affected area or medicines. Extracorporeal shockwave therapy (ESWT) is also an option, where soundwaves target the plaque. Although there is not much evidence to suggest any of the aforementioned treatments are effective.
In severe cases, Peyronie’s can be treated with surgery. According to the NHS, this might involve: removing or cutting away the plaque and attaching a patch of skin or a vein to straighten the penis, removing an area of the penis opposite the plaque to cancel out the bend or implanting a device to straighten the penis.