It’s every guy’s nightmare: penis cancer. For one British man, that bad dream became a reality when he contracted an aggressive, terminal form of the disease that began with an unsightly growth on his penis.
Dale Clarke, a 25-year-old father of one from Newcastle, England, first noticed a problem when he discovered a small lump on the tip of his penis in June of last year. He first thought it was an infection, due to difficulties peeing, but when the tiny lump grew to the size of a grape, he sought help.
Doctors thought the lump was caused by his foreskin and had him medically circumcised, but Clarke immediately feared the worst. “I knew from quite early on, I’d researched it and I was convinced that it was cancer,” he said, according to Caters.
Two weeks later, he was proven right.
“I remember when they phoned me to confirm it was cancer, I couldn’t say anything,” he said. “I just had to hang up the phone and broke down. I’ve tried to pick myself back up again and get on with it. I’ve accepted it.”
“I remember when they phoned me to confirm it was cancer, I couldn’t say anything.”
Since then, he’s been through five operations, nine radiotherapy treatments, and two chemotherapy cycles, but doctors say his cancer is one of the most aggressive cases they’ve seen, and will ultimately be terminal.
“It has no feeling,” he says of his penis. “The cancer is busy eating away around it so I will probably lose it altogether soon.”
Clarke said he has lost all sexual function, although he and his fianceé Paige King, 24, are expecting a child conceived shortly before his diagnosis. Clarke has a six-year-old son named Cole from a previous partner and said that he wants to focus on spending time with his children and fianceé in the months or years he has left.
Here’s What to Know About Penis Cancer
Penis cancer is very rare, with the American Cancer Society estimating 2,320 newly diagnosed cases and around 380 deaths for 2018.
According to the ACS, 95 percent of penile cancers begin in skin cells, usually on the glans or foreskin of the penis. The problem is, it’s very difficult to detect, as the early warning signs can also be symptoms of numerous other diseases and infections. A change in skin texture, colour, or thickness in a certain area is often an early indicator, as well as a small lump, rash, or sore (all of which can have far more benign causes). Sometimes, cancer can spread to nearby lymph nodes in the groin, making them swell.
The five-year relative survival rate is 85 percent for cancers that are still confined to the penis, so it’s important to catch penile cancer early. That means going in to see a doctor as soon as you notice something is up with your business down there is vital.
We know that guys often avoid going to the doctor for penis problems, but if you want to prevent the worst, it’s worth the visit (and trust us, doctors probably have seen wackier things than whatever’s wrong with yours). If the cancer is caught early, it can often be removed with “little or no damage” to your penis itself, according to the ACS. Left too late, and the situation could be far more dire.
Clarke’s story is just another cautionary tale to get checked out if something feels off.
By Jack Crosbie