Living As a Penile Cancer Survivor

For most people with penile cancer, treatment can remove or destroy the cancer. The end of treatment can be both stressful and exciting. You may be relieved to finish treatment, but it’s hard not to worry about cancer coming back. This is very common if you’ve had cancer.

For some people, the cancer might never go away completely. Some people may get regular treatment with chemotherapy or other treatments to try and help keep the cancer in check. Learning to live with cancer that doesn't go away can be difficult and very stressful. 

Life after cancer means returning to some familiar things and also making some new choices.

Follow-up care

If you've completed treatment, your doctors will still want to watch you closely. It’s very important to go to all of your follow-up appointments. During these visits, your doctors will ask about any problems you're having and may do exams, lab tests, and/or imaging tests (like CT scans) to look for signs of cancer or treatment side effects. Almost any cancer treatment can have side effects. Some may last for a few weeks to months, but others can last the rest of your life. This is the time for you to talk to your cancer care team about any changes or problems you notice and discuss any questions or concerns you have.

You'll need to still see your cancer doctor for many years. Doctor visits and exams will be more frequent at first, often every 3 to 6 months for the first 2 years, then every 6 to 12 months for 3 to 5 years. The time between visits will get longer over time. The time between visits and the follow-up tests done depend on the stage of the cancer and the type of treatment you had. Ask what kind of follow-up schedule you can expect.

Ask your doctor for a survivorship care plan

Talk with your doctor about developing a survivorship care plan for you. This plan might include: 

  • A suggested schedule for follow-up exams and tests
  • A schedule for other tests you might need in the future, such as early detection (screening) tests for other types of cancer, or tests to look for long-term health effects from your cancer or its treatment
  • A list of possible late- or long-term side effects from your treatment, including what to watch for and when you should contact your doctor
  • Diet and physical activity suggestions
  • Reminders to keep your appointments with your primary care provider (PCP), who will monitor your general health care 

Keeping health insurance and copies of your medical records

Even after treatment, it’s very important to keep health insurance. Tests and doctor visits cost a lot, and even though no one wants to think of their cancer coming back, this could happen.

At some point after your cancer treatment, you might find yourself seeing a new doctor who doesn’t know about your medical history. It’s important to keep copies of your medical records to give your new doctor the details of your diagnosis and treatment. Learn more in Keeping Copies of Important Medical Records.

Can I lower my risk of the penile cancer progressing or coming back?

If you have (or have had) penile cancer, you probably want to know if there are things you can do that might lower your risk of the cancer growing or coming back, such as exercising, eating a certain type of diet, or taking nutritional supplements. Unfortunately, it’s not yet clear if there are things you can do that will help.

Adopting healthy behaviors such as not smokingeating wellgetting regular physical activity, and staying at a healthy weight might help, but no one knows for sure. Still, we do know that these types of changes can have positive effects on your health that can extend beyond your risk of penile cancer or other cancers.

About dietary supplements

So far, no dietary supplements (including vitamins, minerals, and herbal products) have been shown to clearly help lower the risk of penile cancer progressing or coming back. This doesn’t mean that no supplements will help, but it’s important to know that none have been proven to do so.

Dietary supplements are not regulated like medicines in the United States – they do not have to be proven effective (or even safe) before being sold, although there are limits on what they’re allowed to claim they can do. If you’re thinking about taking any type of nutritional supplement, talk to your health care team. They can help you decide which ones you can use safely while avoiding those that might be harmful.

If the cancer comes back

If the cancer does come back (recur) at some point, your treatment options will depend on where the cancer is, what treatments you’ve had before, your overall health, and your preferences. For more information on how recurrent cancer is treated, see Treatment of Penile Cancer, by Stage.

For more general information on recurrence, you may also want to see Understanding Recurrence.

Could I get a second cancer after treatment?

People who’ve had penile cancer can still get other cancers. So far, penile cancer and it's treatment have not been linked to the risk of specific second cancers. (You can learn more general information about this in Second Cancers in Adults.)

Still, it's important to see your primary care provider and get recommended check-ups and screening tests, including cancer screening tests. You can find details about cancer screening tests that might be right for you in Cancer Screening Guidelines.

Getting emotional support

Some amount of feeling depressed, anxious, or worried is normal when cancer is a part of your life. Some people are affected more than others. But everyone can benefit from help and support from other people, whether friends and family, religious groups, support groups, professional counselors, or others. Learn more in Life After Cancer.

The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team
Our team is made up of doctors and master's-prepared nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as journalists, editors, and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.

National Comprehensive Cancer Network, Clinical Practice Guidelines in Oncology (NCCN Guidelines®), Penile Cancer, Version 2.2018 -- March 26, 2018. Accesed at www.nccn.org/professionals/physician_gls/pdf/penile.pdf on May 31, 2018.

Last Medical Review: June 25, 2018 Last Revised: June 25, 2018

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