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Chancre on the underside of the penis

A chancre (/ˈʃæŋkər/ SHANG-kər)[1] is a painless genital ulcer most commonly formed during the primary stage of syphilis.[2] This infectious lesion forms around 21 days after the initial exposure to Treponema pallidum, the gram-negative spirochaete bacterium causing syphilis, but can range from 10 to 90 days.[2] Without treatment it may persist for two to six weeks before healing.[2] Chancres transmit syphilis through direct physical contact. These ulcers usually form on or around the anus, mouth, penis and vulva.

Chancres are also associated with the African trypanosomiasis (sleeping sickness), surrounding the area of the tsetse fly bite.[citation needed]

Similarities with chancroid[edit]

Two chancres on the penile shaft, caused by primary syphilis. Chancres develop at the site of Treponema pallidum inoculation.

Similarities between the conditions chancre and chancroid:[3]

  • Both originate as pustules at the site of inoculation, and progress to ulcerated lesions
  • Both lesions are typically 1–2 cm in diameter
  • Both lesions are caused by sexually transmissible organisms
  • Both lesions typically appear on the genitals of infected individuals

Differences from chancroid[edit]

Differences between the conditions chancre and chancroid[4]
Chancre Chancroid
Caused by Treponema pallidum infection Caused by Haemophilus ducreyi infection
Typically painless Typically painful
Typically single lesion Typically multiple lesions
Regional bilateral lymph node enlargement Regional unilateral lymph node enlargement
Typically exudes serum Typically has a grey or yellow purulent exudate
Hard (indurated) base with sloping edges Soft base with undermined edges
Heals spontaneously within three to six weeks Requires antibiotic treatment


The word "chancre" (French pronunciation: [ʃɑ̃kʁ]) means "little ulcer" in Old French. Related to the English "canker", they both come from the Latin cancer, meaning "crab",[5] which is a translation from the Greek word καρκίνος (karkínos), also meaning "crab".[6]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ chancres thefreedictionary[full citation needed]
  2. ^ a b c Hook, Edward W. (2012). "Syphilis". Goldman's Cecil Medicine. pp. e157–e163. doi:10.1016/B978-1-4377-1604-7.00569-8. ISBN 978-1-4377-1604-7.
  3. ^ "Chancroid". The Lecturio Medical Concept Library. Retrieved 7 July 2021.
  4. ^ "What's the Difference Between a Chancre and a Chancroid?". NURX. Retrieved 7 July 2021.
  5. ^ Archived 2012-08-06 at the Wayback Machine[full citation needed]
  6. ^ Ayto, John (1990). Dictionary of Word Origins. New York: Arcade Publishing, Inc. p. 94. ISBN 1-55970-214-1.