Penile Cancer

+ -Text Size

Treating Penile Cancer TOPICS

Topical therapy for penile cancer

Some very early penile cancers (carcinoma in situ) can be treated with drugs applied directly on the penis. This is called topical therapy.

Topical chemotherapy

Topical chemotherapy means that an anti-cancer medicine is placed directly onto the skin instead of being taken as a pill or injected into a vein. The drug most often used in topical treatment of penile cancer is 5-fluorouracil (5-FU), which is applied daily for several weeks.

When applied directly onto the skin in the form of a cream, 5-FU reaches cancer cells near the skin surface but cannot reach cancer cells that have grown deeply into the skin or spread to other organs. For this reason, treatment with 5-FU generally is used only for pre-cancerous conditions or carcinoma in situ (Tis, stage 0).

Because the drug does not spread throughout the body, the side effects that often occur with systemic chemotherapy do not occur with topical chemotherapy. Treatment with 5-FU cream makes the treated skin red and very sensitive for a few weeks. Using other topical medicines or creams can help relieve this.


Imiquimod is a drug that boosts the body's immune system. It is available as a cream that is placed directly on the skin. It is sometimes used to treat carcinoma in situ of the penis.

If you’d like more information on a drug used in your treatment or a specific drug mentioned in this section see our Guide to Cancer Drugs , ask a member of your health care team, or call us with the names of the medicines you’re taking.

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