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National Cancer Institute

PDQ® bullet Treatment  bullet Patients

Penile cancer


Table of Contents

OVERVIEW OF PDQ
What is PDQ?
How to use PDQ
DESCRIPTION
What is cancer of the penis?
STAGE EXPLANATION
Stages of cancer of the penis
Stage I
Stage II
Stage III
Stage IV
Recurrent
TREATMENT OPTION OVERVIEW
How cancer of the penis is treated
Treatment by stage
STAGE I PENILE CANCER
STAGE II PENILE CANCER
STAGE III PENILE CANCER
STAGE IV PENILE CANCER
RECURRENT PENILE CANCER
TO LEARN MORE

OVERVIEW OF PDQ


What is PDQ?

PDQ is a computer system that gives up-to-date information on cancer and its prevention, detection, treatment, and supportive care. It is a service of the National Cancer Institute (NCI) for people with cancer and their families and for doctors, nurses, and other health care professionals.

To ensure that it remains current, the information in PDQ is reviewed and updated each month by experts in the fields of cancer treatment, prevention, screening, and supportive care. PDQ also provides information about research on new treatments (clinical trials), doctors who treat cancer, and hospitals with cancer programs. The treatment information in this summary is based on information in the PDQ summary for health professionals on this cancer.


How to use PDQ

PDQ can be used to learn more about current treatment of different kinds of cancer. You may find it helpful to discuss this information with your doctor, who knows you and has the facts about your disease. PDQ can also provide the names of additional health care professionals who specialize in treating patients with cancer.

Before you start treatment, you also may want to think about taking part in a clinical trial. PDQ can be used to learn more about these trials. A clinical trial is a research study that attempts to improve current treatments or finds information on new treatments for patients with cancer. Clinical trials are based on past studies and information discovered in the laboratory. Each trial answers certain scientific questions in order to find new and better ways to help patients with cancer. Information is collected about new treatments, their risks, and how well they do or do not work. When clinical trials show that a new treatment is better than the treatment currently used as "standard" treatment, the new treatment may become the standard treatment. Listings of current clinical trials are available on PDQ. Many cancer doctors who take part in clinical trials are listed in PDQ.

To learn more about cancer and how it is treated, or to learn more about clinical trials for your kind of cancer, call the National Cancer Institute's Cancer Information Service. The number is 1-800-4-CANCER (1-800-422-6237); TTY at 1-800-332-8615. The call is free and a trained information specialist will be available to answer cancer-related questions.

PDQ is updated whenever there is new information. Check with the Cancer Information Service to be sure that you have the most up-to-date information.


DESCRIPTION


What is cancer of the penis?

Cancer of the penis, a rare kind of cancer in the United States, is a disease in which cancer (malignant) cells are found on the skin and in the tissues of the penis.

Men who are not circumcised at birth may have a higher risk for getting cancer of the penis. A circumcision is an operation in which the doctor takes away part or all of the foreskin from the penis. The foreskin is the skin which covers the tip of the penis. A circumcision is done on many baby boys before they go home from the hospital.

A doctor should be seen if there are any of the following problems: growths or sores on the penis, any unusual liquid coming from the penis (abnormal discharge), or bleeding.

If there are symptoms of cancer, the doctor will examine the penis and feel for any lumps. If the penis doesn't look normal or if the doctor feels any lumps, a small sample of tissue (called a biopsy) will be cut from the penis and looked at under a microscope to see if there are any cancer cells.

The prognosis (chance of recovery) and choice of treatment depend on the stage of the cancer (whether it is just in the penis or has spread to other places), and the patient's general state of health.


STAGE EXPLANATION


Stages of cancer of the penis

Once cancer of the penis is found, more tests will be done to find out if the cancer has spread from the penis to other parts of the body (staging). A doctor needs to know the stage of the disease to plan treatment. The following stages are used for cancer of the penis:


Stage I

Cancer cells are found only on the surface of the glans (the head of the penis) and on the foreskin (the loose skin that covers the head of the penis).


Stage II

Cancer cells are found in the deeper tissues of the glans and have spread to the shaft of the penis (the long, slender cylinders of tissue inside the penis that contain spongy tissue and expand to produce erections).


Stage III

Cancer cells are found in the penis and have spread to nearby lymph nodes in the groin. (Lymph nodes are small bean-shaped structures that are found throughout the body; they produce and store infection-fighting cells).


Stage IV

Cancer cells are found throughout the penis and the lymph nodes in the groin and/or have spread to other parts of the body.


Recurrent

Recurrent disease means that the cancer has come back (recurred) after it has been treated. It may come back in the same area or in another place.


TREATMENT OPTION OVERVIEW


How cancer of the penis is treated

There are treatments for all patients with cancer of the penis. Four kinds of treatment are used:

Surgery is the most common treatment of all stages of cancer of the penis. A doctor may take out the cancer using one of the following operations:

Radiation therapy uses x-rays or other high-energy rays to kill cancer cells and shrink tumors. Radiation may come from a machine outside the body (external radiation) or from putting materials that contain radiation through thin plastic tubes into the area where the cancer cells are (internal radiation). Radiation may be used alone or after surgery.

Chemotherapy uses drugs to kill cancer cells. Fluorouracil cream (a chemotherapy drug put on the skin of the penis) is sometimes used for very small surface cancers of the penis. Chemotherapy may also be given by pill or by a needle in a vein. When chemotherapy is given in this way, it is called a systemic treatment because the drugs enter the bloodstream, travel through the body, and can kill cancer cells outside the penis.

Biological therapy tries to get the body to fight cancer. It uses materials made by the body or made in a laboratory to boost, direct, or restore the body's natural defenses against disease. Biological treatment is sometimes called biological response modifier (BRM) therapy.


Treatment by stage

Treatment of cancer of the penis depends on the stage of the disease, the type of disease, and the patient's age and overall condition.

Standard treatment may be considered because of its effectiveness in patients in past studies, or participation in a clinical trial may be considered. Not all patients are cured with standard therapy and some standard treatments may have more side effects than are desired. For these reasons, clinical trials are designed to find better ways to treat cancer patients and are based on the most up-to-date information. Clinical trials are ongoing on in many parts of the country for most stages of cancer of the penis. To learn more about clinical trials, call the Cancer Information Service at 1-800-4-CANCER (1-800-422-6237); TTY at 1-800-332-8615.


STAGE I PENILE CANCER

If the cancer is limited to the foreskin, treatment will probably be wide local excision and circumcision.

If the cancer begins in the glans and does not involve other tissues, treatment may involve:

If the tumor begins in the glans and involves other tissues, treatment may involve: Clinical trials of laser therapy for stage I penile cancer are also being conducted.


STAGE II PENILE CANCER

Treatment may be amputation of the penis (partial, total, or radical penectomy) or radiation therapy followed by amputation of the penis. Clinical trials of laser therapy for stage II penile cancer are also being conducted.


STAGE III PENILE CANCER

Treatment may be amputation of the penis, followed by removal of lymph nodes on both sides of the groin or amputation of the penis followed by radiation therapy. Clinical trials of chemotherapy and chemotherapy with radiation therapy are also being conducted.


STAGE IV PENILE CANCER

Treatment will be designed to reduce symptoms and may include wide local excision, microsurgery, amputation of the penis, or radiation therapy. Clinical trials of chemotherapy combined with surgery or radiation therapy are also being conducted.


RECURRENT PENILE CANCER

If the cancer has come back (recurred), treatment may include amputation of the penis or radiation therapy. Clinical trials of chemotherapy or biological therapy are also being conducted.


TO LEARN MORE

TO LEARN MORE..... CALL 1-800-4-CANCER

To learn more about cancer of the penis, call the National Cancer Institute's Cancer Information Service at 1-800-4-CANCER (1-800-422-6237); TTY at 1-800-332-8615. By dialing this toll-free number, trained information specialists can answer your questions.

The Cancer Information Service also has booklets about cancer that are available to the public and can be sent on request. The following general booklets on questions related to cancer may be helpful:

Taking Time: Support for People with Cancer and the People Who Care About
Them
What Are Clinical Trials All About?
Chemotherapy and You: A Guide to Self-Help During Treatment
Radiation Therapy and You: A Guide to Self-Help During Treatment
Eating Hints for Cancer Patients
Advanced Cancer: Living Each Day
When Cancer Recurs: Meeting the Challenge Again
What You Need To Know About Cancer

There are many other places where people can get material and information about cancer treatment and services. The social service office at a hospital can be checked for local and national agencies that help with getting information about finances, getting to and from treatment, getting care at home, and dealing with problems.

For more information from the National Cancer Institute, please write to this address:

National Cancer Institute
Office of Cancer Communications
31 Center Drive, MSC 2580
Bethesda, MD 20892-2580

Date Last Modified: 06/1998


If you want to know more about cancer and how it is treated, or if you wish to know about clinical trials for your type of cancer, you can call the NCI's Cancer Information Service at 1-800-422-6237, toll free. A trained information specialist can talk with you and answer your questions.


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