Penile Cancer

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Treating Penile Cancer TOPICS

How is penile cancer treated?

This information represents the views of the doctors and nurses serving on the American Cancer Society's Cancer Information Database Editorial Board. These views are based on their interpretation of studies published in medical journals, as well as their own professional experience.
The treatment information in this document is not official policy of the Society and is not intended as medical advice to replace the expertise and judgment of your cancer care team. It is intended to help you and your family make informed decisions, together with your doctor.
Your doctor may have reasons for suggesting a treatment plan different from these general treatment options. Don't hesitate to ask him or her questions about your treatment options.

In recent years, much progress has been made in treating penile cancer. New medicines or ways to use medicines have been developed. Surgical methods involving microscopic techniques and lasers have been refined, and more is known about the best way to use radiation.

Making penile cancer treatment decisions

After the cancer is found and staged, your cancer care team will discuss treatment options with you. You should take time and think about all of your choices. In choosing a treatment plan, factors to consider include:

  • The type and stage of your cancer
  • Your overall physical health
  • Your personal preferences about treatments and their side effects

If time permits, it is often a good idea to seek a second opinion. A second opinion can provide more information and help you feel more confident about the treatment plan you have chosen. Some insurance companies even require a second opinion before they will agree to pay for certain treatments.

Depending on the type and stage of your cancer, you might need more than one type of treatment. Doctors on your cancer treatment team may include:

  • A urologist: a surgeon who specializes in diseases of the male genitals and urinary tract
  • A radiation oncologist: a doctor who uses radiation to treat cancer
  • A medical oncologist: a doctor who uses chemotherapy and other medicines to treat cancer

Many other specialists may be involved in your care as well, including nurse practitioners, nurses, psychologists, social workers, rehabilitation specialists, and other health professionals.

The main types of treatments that can be used to treat penile cancers are:

Surgery is the main method of treatment for nearly all penile cancers, but sometimes radiation therapy may be used, either instead of or in addition to surgery. Chemotherapy may be given if the cancer has spread.

The goal of your cancer care team is to treat the cancer effectively while limiting the treatment's effects on the function and appearance of the penis. If the cancer can't be cured, the goal may be to remove or destroy as much of the cancer as possible and to prevent the tumor from growing, spreading, or returning for as long as possible. Sometimes treatment is aimed at relieving symptoms, such as pain or bleeding, even if you won't be cured.

It is important to discuss all of your treatment options, including their goals and possible side effects, with your doctors to help make the decision that best fits your needs. It’s also very important to ask questions if there is anything you’re not sure about. You can find some good questions to ask in the section, “What should you ask your doctor about penile cancer?

For information about some of the most common approaches used based on the extent of the disease, see the section “Treatment of penile cancers, by stage.”

Last Medical Review: 12/06/2013
Last Revised: 01/09/2015