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Penile Cancer: Treatment Choices

Doctor speaking to male patient
You should learn all you can about penile cancer and your treatment choices.

There are various treatment choices for penile cancer. Which may work best for you? It depends on a number of factors. These include the type of cancer, results of other tests, and size, location, and stage of your cancer. Factors also include your age, overall health, and what side effects you’ll find acceptable.

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 function 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, how successful they are expected to be, and what the risks and side effects are. Your healthcare provider may advise a specific treatment. Or he or she may offer more than one, and ask you to decide which one you’d like to use. It can be hard to make this decision. It is important to take the time you need to make the best decision.

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 your treatment plan. In fact, some insurance companies may require a second opinion. In addition, you may want to involve your family and friends in this process.

Types of treatment for penile cancer

Treatment for penile cancer is either local or for your whole body (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 more than one (combination therapy):

  • Surgery. 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.

  • Radiation therapy. The goal of this treatment is to kill cancer cells by using high energy 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 get radiation externally (external beam radiation therapy) or internally (brachytherapy).

  • Chemotherapy. Depending on the type of tumor, doctors may use different chemotherapy medicines to treat penile cancer. For very early stage cancers, chemotherapy may be put directly on the skin as a cream (topical chemotherapy). For advanced cancers, systemic chemotherapy may be used to reach cancer cells throughout the body. It is given by mouth or injected into a vein or muscle.

Clinical trials for new treatments

Researchers are always finding new ways to treat cancer. These new methods are tested in clinical trials. Talk with your healthcare provider to find out if you should consider any clinical trials. 

Online Medical Reviewer: Cunningham, Louise, RN
Online Medical Reviewer: Welch, Annette, MNS, OCN
Date Last Reviewed: 7/2/2015
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