Penile Cancer: Treatment Choices
There are many ways to treat penile cancer. Which may work best for you? It depends
on a number of factors. These include the type of penile cancer you have, your test
results, the size of the tumor, its location, and whether it has spread beyond the
penis. Other factors include your age, overall health, and the side effects you’ll
Learning about your treatment options
You may have questions and concerns about your treatment options. You may also want
to know how you’ll feel and how your body will work after treatment. You may want
to know if you’ll have to change your normal activities.
Your healthcare provider is the best person to answer your questions. He or she can
tell you what your treatment choices are, what outcomes you might expect, and what
the risks and side effects are. Your healthcare provider may advise a specific treatment.
Or you may be offered more than one and have to decide which one you’d like. It can
be hard to make this decision. It is important to take the time you need to make the
Deciding on the best plan may take some time. Talk with your healthcare provider about
how much time you can take to explore your options. You may want to get another opinion
before deciding on a treatment plan. You may also want to involve your family and
friends in this process.
Types of treatment for penile cancer
Treatment for penile cancer is either local or systemic. Local treatments remove,
destroy, or control the cancer cells in one area. Surgery, radiation therapy, and
topical chemotherapy are local treatments. Systemic treatments, such as chemotherapy,
are used to destroy or control cancer cells throughout the entire body.
You may have just one of these treatments. Or you may have more than one (combination
Surgery. This is the most common treatment for penile cancer. The goal of surgery is to remove
the tumor and leave as much of the penis as possible. Surgery may also be used to
remove nearby lymph nodes. If the cancer has grown deep into the penis, part or all
of it may need to be removed. This is called a penectomy.
Radiation therapy. The goal of this treatment is to kill cancer cells by using high energy X-rays. Your
healthcare provider may use it as the main treatment for penile cancer instead of
surgery, or it may be used along with surgery. You may get it from a machine that
directs the beams at the tumor (called external beam radiation therapy). Or radioactive
wires or seeds might be put right into the tumor to kill cancer cells. This is called
internal radiation or brachytherapy.
Chemotherapy. Depending on the type of tumor, different chemotherapy medicines can be used to treat
penile cancer. For very early stage cancers (those that are small, not deep, and haven't
spread), chemotherapy may be put right on the skin as a cream. This is called topical
chemotherapy. For advanced cancers, systemic chemotherapy may be used to reach cancer
cells throughout the body. It's given by mouth or injected into a vein.
Clinical trials for new treatments
Researchers are always finding new ways to treat cancer. These are tested in clinical
trials. Talk with your healthcare provider to find out if you should think about being
part of a clinical trial.