When you're treated at MD Anderson for penile cancer, some of the nation's top specialists focus their expertise on you. They communicate with each other – and with you – to ensure you receive the most advanced treatment with the least impact on your body.
As one of the nation's leading cancer centers, MD Anderson sees many more patients with penile cancer than the average oncologist. This means we have a higher level of experience and expertise, which is crucial to your treatment and recovery.
Like all surgeries, penile cancer surgery often is more successful when performed by a specialist with a great deal of experience. This is particularly true for organ-preserving surgeries, Mohs surgery and plastic surgery reconstruction, which usually are used to treat penile cancer.
Since MD Anderson is one of the nation's most active cancer centers, clinical trials of new agents are available for some penile cancer patients.
Penile Cancer Treatments
If you are diagnosed with penile cancer, your doctor will discuss the best options to treat it. This depends on several factors, including the type and stage of the cancer and your general health.
Surgery is the most frequent form of treatment for penile cancer, but laser therapy and radiation may be used for smaller tumors. The type of treatment usually depends on how far the cancer has spread.
Your treatment for penile cancer will be customized to your particular needs. One or more of the following therapies may be recommended to treat the cancer or help relieve symptoms.
Surgery to remove all or part of the penis is called penectomy. Penile preservation surgery (the penis is not removed) is used to treat penile cancer whenever possible.
Circumcision: Surgical removal of the penis foreskin and some of the nearby skin. This procedure may be done if the penile cancer has not spread beyond the foreskin. It also may be done before radiation therapy.
Partial penectomy: The tumor is removed along with a margin of healthy tissue. In the past, a 2-centimeter margin was removed in all cases of penile cancer. Recent research suggests such wide margins may not be needed. Surgeons try to spare as much of the glans (head) and shaft as possible to keep urinary and sexual function.
Total penectomy: Removal of the entire penis for treatment of large penile cancer tumors. The surgeon reroutes the urethra (tiny tubes that urine passes through) behind the testicles, and an urethrostomy (hole) is created so you can urinate. Penile reconstruction surgery using a flap of skin from the forearm to create a new penis has been done, but the procedure is rare.
Mohs surgery (microscopically-controlled surgery): The surgeon surgically removes a thin layer of skin and looks at it right away under a microscope. This process is repeated until the cells are free of cancer.
Laser surgery: Light from a laser vaporizes penile cancer cells.
New radiation therapy techniques and remarkable skill allow MD Anderson doctors to target penile cancer more precisely, delivering the maximum amount of radiation with the least damage to healthy cells. In penile cancer, radiation therapy may be used to treat early stage tumors, with surgery to remove lymph nodes, and in advanced cancers to control spread and help relieve symptoms.
MD Anderson offers the most up-to-date and advanced chemotherapy options for penile cancer.
Topical chemotherapy: An anti-cancer medicine, usually 5-fluorouracil or 5-FU, is applied as a cream for several weeks. This generally is used only for precancerous or very early penile cancer.
Systemic chemotherapy: Medicine injected into a vein or given by mouth.
Imiquimod: A drug in a cream form that boosts the body's immune system. It sometimes is used to treat very early stage penile cancer.