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What To Know About Your Treatment Choices For Penile Cancer

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

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

You are likely to have many questions and concerns about treatment options. 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 treatment

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:

  • 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 receive radiation externally, called external beam radiation therapy, or internally, called brachytherapy.

  • Chemotherapy. 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, which is given orally or injected into a vein or muscle, may reach cancer cells throughout the body.

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.


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