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Doctors are constantly finding new ways to improve treatments for penile cancer. You should learn all you can about penile cancer and your treatment choices so that you can take an active part in decisions about your care:
Your treatment choices will depend on these things.
Size and location of the tumor in the penis
Results of lab tests
Stage or extent of the cancer
Your general health and personal preferences
Most men also want to know how they will function after treatment and whether they will have to change their normal activities. The doctor is the best person to answer questions about your treatment choices, how successful treatment will be, what the risks and side effects may be, and how much it is likely to cost.
Types of treatments
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 are used to destroy or control cancer cells throughout the entire body. Chemotherapy is used when cancer has spread.
You may have just one of these treatments, or you may have a combination:
The use of anticancer drugs to shrink or kill cancerous cells and reduce cancer spreading to other parts of the body.
Depending on the type of tumor, doctors may use different chemotherapy drugs to treat penile cancer. For very early stage cancers, chemotherapy may be applied directly to the skin as a cream (topical chemotherapy). For advanced cancers, systemic chemotherapy (given into a vein) may help shrink tumors.
The use of high-energy radiation to kill or shrink cancer cells, tumors, and non-cancerous diseases.
The goal of radiation therapy is to kill cancer cells by using X-rays. Your doctor may use it as the main treatment for penile cancer instead of surgery, or it may be used along with surgery in some cases. You may receive radiation externally, called external beam radiation therapy, or internally, called brachytherapy.
This is the most common treatment for penile cancer. The goal of this treatment is to remove the tumor and leave as much of the penis as possible. New advances in treatment have increased the kinds of surgery used to treat penile cancer and have made the removal of the penis less common. Doctors may also use surgery to remove regional lymph nodes.
Doctors are always finding new ways to treat penile cancer. These new methods are tested in clinical trials. Before beginning treatment, ask your doctor if there are any clinical trials you should consider.
There is no definite way to prevent cancer of the penis. These are some things you can do that may lower your risks:
Practice safe sex and limit the number of sexual partners to minimize contact with the human papilloma virus (HPV). It is not yet clear if getting the HPV vaccine can reduce the risk of penile cancer.
Follow good personal hygiene habits. If you have a foreskin (have not been circumcised), retract the foreskin and clean under it every day.
Can I get checked for penile cancer before I have symptoms?
No standard screening process is used to check for penile cancer. However, you can help protect yourself by routinely checking for any skin changes, such as warts, sores, or blisters. Many men may not see a doctor about such changes because of embarrassment or other reasons. If you notice any changes on the skin of your foreskin, glans, or shaft of your penis, you should tell your doctor right away.
The Stanford Medicine Online Second Opinion program offers you easy access to our world-class doctors. It’s all done remotely and you don’t have to visit our hospital or one of our clinics for this service. You don’t even need to leave home!