Penile Cancer Treatment

Personalized treatment options for penile cancer address your special needs

At Henry Ford, we understand that most men diagnosed with penile cancer feel worried about sexual function. Our chief concern is to meet your unique needs, determine optimal approaches, and use advanced technology that will have the least impact on your body.

Penile cancer is rare, and the fight against it will take a special team. It will include urologists, oncologists, and surgeons who analyze the specific type of penile cancer, the stage of cancer, your health, and other important factors to create a personalized treatment plan for you. The plan may include:

Before you begin any treatment for penile cancer, we encourage you to discuss options for preserving fertility. Treatment for penile cancer may disrupt fertility, and we advise men to discuss sperm banking. In a supportive environment, our fertility consultants will be available to answer your questions within 24 hours.

Most types of penile cancers grow slowly. If the disease is in the pre-cancer or the earliest stages, an ointment known as topical chemotherapy may be used to destroy the cancer cells. A different ointment may be chosen to boost the body’s immune response to fight the cancer. If the cancer does not go away, then minimally invasive surgery may be done. Also, depending on the type and stage of penile cancer, laser therapy, or radiation therapy may be needed.

Advanced and minimally invasive surgery

At Henry Ford, our highly skilled urologists are leaders of innovative techniques for minimally invasive surgery. By making small incisions instead of large ones, the treatment benefits will include faster recovery times, less discomfort, and shorter hospital stays.

Surgery will depend on the exact location of the penile cancer and where it has spread. Our experienced surgical team will carefully evaluate your condition and determine the best approach for your particular needs. Some surgical options may include: circumcision, laser therapy or surgery, simple excision, wide local excision, Mohs surgery, glansectomy, partial penectomy, total penectomy, perineal urethrostomy, or emasculation. In some cases, additional surgeries may be required, such as sentinel lymph node biopsy (SLNB), inguinal lymphadenectomy (groin lymph node dissection), or pelvic lymph node surgery.

Chemotherapy

To damage or destroy cancer cells, we use drugs called chemotherapy. Our penile cancer team includes medical oncologists – physicians who specialize in the administration of chemotherapy, immunotherapy, and other medications. They will work closely with you to customize the most appropriate treatment.

  • Neoadjuvant chemotherapy may be given before surgery in some cases. It may be used to shrink large tumors and prevent the need for extensive surgery. This type of chemotherapy can decrease the risk of the cancer returning. It can kill cancer cells that are unseen because they have moved away from the original tumor site.
  • Adjuvant chemotherapy is often given after surgery. This chemotherapy is used to kill any remaining cancer cells that may have spread or weren’t seen during surgery. In many cases, it can reduce the risk of new cancerous tumors.

Radiation therapy

Henry Ford Cancer Institute is a world leader in new approaches to radiation therapy and the fast-developing field of radiosurgery. This type of radiation uses precise, advanced technology to deliver higher doses of radiation in fewer sessions.

Radiation therapy damages the DNA of cancer cells so the cells stop growing and die. It may take weeks of treatment before the cancer cells begin to die. After radiation ends, the cancer cells may continue dying for months. The dead cells are broken down and eliminated from the body.

Radiation therapy may be used when penile cancer has spread, or metastasized. Before surgery, it may be used to shrink the tumor. After surgery, it may also be used to destroy any cancer cells that may remain in the body. In some cases, it is used to treat lymph nodes in the groin and pelvis.

Our options for radiation therapy for penile cancer include:

  • MRI-guided radiation therapy, known as ViewRay MRIdian Linac, may be an option for select patients. This technology provides precise and accurate radiation treatment. To help protect healthy tissue near cancer cells, imaging is done at the same time radiation treatment is done. This allows physicians to accurately target the cancer cells and use a strong dose of radiation to kill the cancer. 
  • External beam radiation therapy is a painless procedure, similar to getting an x-ray. Strong radiation is focused on the tumor site for a few minutes. Depending on the stage of cancer, a single session of high-dose radiation may be given, or multiple sessions of lower doses may be prescribed. This type of radiation may be given before surgery to shrink the tumor.
  • Interstitial radiation involves placing radioactive material near or next to the tumor on the penis. Healthy tissues benefit of this treatment because they are not widely exposed to radiation. During the surgical procedure, hollow needles are inserted into the penis and remain in place for several days. Then, tiny radioactive pellets are placed into the needles to release radiation several times a day. The needles and pellets are removed at the end of the treatment.

Preserve your fertility

If you would like to father children later, certain procedures may be available to you. Before any cancer treatment begins, talk with your doctor to discuss the risks and benefits of the proposed cancer treatments and ways to preserve your fertility. 

Sperm banking involves collecting semen by masturbation, by help from a partner’s stimulation, or by a vibratory stimulation device. Within one hour, semen is taken to a sperm bank where estimates will be made of the sperm-cell count, normal-shaped sperm, and sperm motility. Cells are frozen and stored until needed. 

Radiation shielding involves using a lead shield to protect the testicles from the scattering X-rays during radiation treatment. After treatment, unprotected sexual activity should be avoided for a certain period of time.

Clinical trials

Medical research, known as clinical trials, is constantly being done to find better ways of treating penile cancer. Enrolling in a clinical trial may provide treatment options that are still under exploration. At Henry Ford, our research nurse will work with you to find the clinical trial for a new drug or treatment approach that meets your needs.

Connect with our Cancer Team 24/7. Call us at (888) 777-4167