What is Penile cancer?

Penile cancer is a rare form of cancer that affects the penis. It is also known as malignant neoplasm of the penis (MNP) or malignant tumour of the penis (MT). The World Health Organization (WHO) categorizes penile cancer as a type of cancer that starts in the skin, the foreskin of the penis, or the tissues that surround the penis.

In the United States, penile cancer is most commonly found in men between the ages of 60 and 70 years old. However, it is also common in men in their 80s, 90s, and older.

Penile cancer is treated differently depending on the stage of the cancer. Staging the cancer is the process of determining how far the cancer has spread.

Staging penile cancer

The stage of the cancer is a measurement of how far the cancer has spread. Staging penile cancer refers to the process of determining the extent of the cancer.

The following stages of cancer are used to describe penile cancer:

  • Stage 1, 2, 3 and 4, the cancer is in the early stages of the disease. In stages 1 and 2, the cancer is still confined to the penis. In stage 3 and 4, cancer has spread to nearby lymph nodes or to other areas of the body.
  • Stage 5, the cancer has spread to other parts of the body.

There are three types of penile cancer:

  • Squamous cell carcinoma
  • Adenocarcinoma
  • Adenosquamous carcinoma

The stage of the cancer is used to determine the survival rate of the cancer. Each stage of cancer is assigned a survival rate based on the following:

  • The size of the cancer
  • The extent of the cancer
  • The grade of the cancer

Your doctor will consider the stage of the cancer and the grade of the cancer when determining the survival rate.

How is penile cancer diagnosed?

Your doctor will conduct a physical exam. The size of the cancer will also be noted. Your doctor may also want to conduct a biopsy to determine the type of cancer.

A biopsy is the process of removing a small sample of tissue from the body. The sample is examined by a pathologist, who is a doctor specializing in the study of diseases of the body.

The pathologist will classify the type of cancer based on the size of the cancer when it is first discovered and the size of the cancer after it has spread to lymph nodes or other areas of the body.

Your doctor may also order a PET scan to learn whether the cancer has spread to other parts of the body.

Treatment of penile cancer

Treatment of penile cancer will depend on the type of cancer and the stage of the cancer. Treatment may include:

  • Surgery
  • Radiation therapy
  • Chemotherapy
  • Targeted therapy
  • Immunotherapy

Surgery

Surgery is used to remove the cancerous tissue and any other cancerous tissue. Your doctor will discuss the best option for you.

Your doctor will remove the cancerous tissue and any other cancerous tissue along with healthy tissue. The cancerous tissue is usually removed by:

  • Excision biopsy, in which a small piece of the cancerous tissue is removed
  • Surgical excision, in which the entire cancerous tissue is removed

Your doctor may also recommend removing nearby lymph nodes to determine whether the cancer has spread to other areas of the body.

Radiation therapy

Radiation therapy is used to treat cancer that has spread to other areas of the body. The goal of radiation therapy is to kill cancer cells while limiting the damage to normal cells.

Your doctor can use radiation therapy to treat cancer that has spread to other parts of the body such as the lungs, bones, or brain. Radiation therapy can be used to treat cancer that has spread into the penis.

Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy is used to treat cancer that has spread to other parts of the body. Chemotherapy uses medications to kill cancer cells.

Your doctor can use chemotherapy to treat cancer that has metastasized to other parts of the penis.

Targeted therapy

Targeted therapy is a treatment combining medicines that target specific abnormalities in cancer cells. Targeted therapy is used to treat cancer that has metastasized to the penis.

Immunotherapy

Immunotherapy is a cancer treatment that uses the body’s own immune system to fight cancer. Immunotherapy is used to treat cancers that have spread to the penis.

What happens after penile cancer treatment?

After penile cancer treatment, you will need regular checkups to ensure that the cancer has not returned.

Follow-up appointments will be scheduled with your doctor. You will also need to have regular checkups with your urologist.

Penile cancer treatment can cause side effects. It is important to work with your doctors to manage your side effects.

Your doctor can help you identify and manage side effects of penile cancer treatment.

Side effects of penile cancer treatment

Side effects of penile cancer treatment can include:

  • Swelling
  • Pain
  • Bleeding
  • Infections
  • Leaking
  • Discharge from the penis
  • Changes in sexual function
  • Changes in the appearance of your penis
  • Changes in the appearance of your scrotum
  • Low sperm count
  • Pain in the scrotum
  • Hair loss
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Changes in the appearance of your genital area

Some of these side effects may be temporary. However, some side effects may be permanent.

If you experience any of these side effects, talk with your doctor. They can help you manage them.

Outlook for penile cancer

Survival rates of penile cancer vary depending on the stage of the cancer, the grade of the cancer, and the type of penile cancer.

Survival rates for penile cancer are as follows:

  • Survival rates for stage 1 and 2 penile cancer are 100 percent.

Summary

Penile cancer is a type of cancer that develops in the penis. It can also occur in the foreskin of the penis or the tissue that surrounds the penis.

Many types of penile cancer exist. The type of penile cancer you have will depend on the location and size of the cancerous tissue.

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