Surgery is the most common treatment for penile cancer. Early stages of penile cancer
can usually be cured by surgery alone. (An early stage cancer is small and has not
spread.) The kind of surgery you will have depends on these things:
These are some of the kinds of surgery used to treat penile cancer. Your surgeon will
try to find a treatment that will give you the best chance for a cure. He or she will
also try to preserve as much of your penis as possible.
Circumcision. If the cancer is only on the foreskin of the penis, circumcision may be able to remove
all the cancer. Circumcision is surgery to remove the foreskin.
Simple excision. The surgeon cuts the tumor out and also takes some of the nearby skin. He or she
stitches the remaining skin back together. This is the same as an excisional biopsy.
Wide local excision. The surgeon cuts out the tumor and healthy tissue on all sides (more than with a
simple excision). This ensures that all the cancer is taken out. A skin graft may
be needed to cover the area.
Cryosurgery. Liquid nitrogen can be used to freeze and kill cancer cells. The skin blisters and
peels. This treatment is mostly used for small cancers on the glans. It may be repeated
until all the cancer cells are gone.
Mohs micrographic surgery. This type may be an option for small, shallow tumors. The surgeon takes off a layer
of the tumor and the skin around it. The sample is checked under a microscope to see
if there are cancer cells in it. This is repeated until there are no more cancer cells
in the layer of skin. Mohs surgery is a slow process. But it can save normal tissue
around the tumor. It also may not change the look or function of the penis as much
as some other surgeries.
Laser surgery. The surgeon uses a laser beam to kill cancer cells. Laser surgery is usually used
only for small tumors that are on the surface of the skin. It might also be used for
men who don't want to have surgery.
Amputation (penectomy). Removing part or all the penis is often the best way to treat penile cancers that
have spread deep into the penis. Amputation may be partial or total. It depends on
how far the cancer has spread.
Inguinal lymphadenectomy (groin lymph node dissection). This surgery is done on the nearby lymph nodes, not the penis itself. If any of the
groin lymph nodes that drain lymph from the penis contain cancer cells, the surgeon
removes them. These nodes can be found using a procedure called a sentinel lymph node
biopsy. It allows the surgeon to find the first (sentinel) nodes that drain the tumor.
These few can be removed and checked for cancer cells. If there's no cancer in them,
no more nodes need to be taken out. If cancer cells are found, more nodes are removed.
Many men with penile cancer have swollen groin lymph nodes. This swelling is often
from an infection rather than cancer, so antibiotics are given. If the swelling doesn't
go away in a few weeks, then this surgery might be done to remove the lymph nodes
and check them for cancer.