Photo Rounds

Growing lesion

A 64-year-old uncircumcised man presented to his family physician (FP) with a growing lesion on the glans penis that had been present for the past 6 months. He stated that it was beginning to hurt and sometimes left blood stains on his underwear. The foreskin was retracted for the exam. The patient indicated that he had multiple female sexual partners over his lifetime, but he was not currently sexually active. His hypertension was controlled, and he had no other skin lesions.

What’s your diagnosis?


Growing lesion

The FP recognized this as squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) of the penis.

The FP knew that a biopsy would be needed to confirm his clinical impression and obtained informed consent for a shave biopsy of a portion of the lesion. While the FP was taught in medical school to never use epinephrine on the penis, he realized that this was merely a myth (see “Biopsies for skin cancer detection: Dispelling the myths”). He injected 1% lidocaine with epinephrine into the lesion for anesthesia and to minimize bleeding during the shave biopsy. (See the Watch & Learn video on “Shave biopsy.”) The FP performed a shave biopsy of a small portion of the lesion farthest from the urethra.

Aluminum chloride was used to stop most of the bleeding, but since the penis is very vascular, some electrocoagulation was needed to stop all of the bleeding. The pathology came back as an invasive SCC. Due to the location of the lesion on the glans and around the urethra, the patient was referred to Urology.

A partial penectomy was performed and clear surgical margins were achieved. If the lesion had been on the shaft of the penis (rather than the glans penis), a Mohs surgeon would have attempted to save the whole penis with tissue sparing surgery.

Photo courtesy of Jeff Meffert, MD, and text courtesy of Richard P. Usatine, MD. This case was adapted from: Karnes J, Usatine R. Squamous cell carcinoma. In: Usatine R, Smith M, Mayeaux EJ, et al. Color Atlas of Family Medicine. 2nd ed. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill; 2013:999-1007.

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