Penile Cancer

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Early Detection, Diagnosis, and Staging TOPICS

Survival rates for penile cancer

Survival rates are a way for doctors and patients to get a general idea of the outlook for people with a certain type and stage of cancer. Some people want to know the statistics for people in their situation, while others may not find them helpful, or may even not want to know them. If you decide that you don’t want to know them, stop reading here and skip to the next section.

The 5-year survival rate is the percentage of patients who live at least 5 years after their cancer is diagnosed. Many of these patients live much longer than 5 years, but 5-year rates are used to produce a standard way of discussing prognosis (outlook).

Relative survival rates compare the survival of people with the cancer to the survival for people without the cancer. Since some people will die of causes other than cancer, this is a better way to see the impact of cancer on survival.

To get 5-year survival rates, doctors have to look at people who were treated at least 5 years ago. Improvements in treatment since then may result in a more favorable outlook for people now being diagnosed with penile cancer.

Survival rates are typically based on previous outcomes of large numbers of people who had the disease, but they cannot predict what will happen in any particular person's case. Many other factors may affect a person's outlook, such as a person's age and general health, and how well the cancer responds to treatment. Your doctor can tell you if the numbers below may apply to you, as he or she is familiar with the aspects of your particular situation.

The rates below are based on the stage of the cancer when it is first diagnosed. When looking at survival rates, it’s important to understand that the stage of a cancer does not change over time, even if the cancer progresses. A cancer that comes back or spreads is still referred to by the stage it was given when it was first found and diagnosed, but more information is added to explain the current extent of the cancer. (And of course, the treatment plan is adjusted based on the change in cancer status.)

Because penile cancer is not common, it is hard to find accurate survival rates based on the TNM stage of the cancer. The numbers below come from the National Cancer Institute's SEER database, looking at more than 1,000 men diagnosed with penile cancer between 1988 and 2001.

  • For cancers that are still confined to the penis (like stage I and II), the 5-year relative survival rate is around 85%.
  • If the cancer has spread to nearby tissues or lymph nodes (like stage III and some stage IV), the 5-year relative survival rate is around 59%.
  • If the cancer has spread to distant parts of the body, 5-year relative survival rate is about 11%.

Last Medical Review: 12/06/2013
Last Revised: 02/06/2014