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Penile Cancer


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Penile cancer starts in cells in the penis. The penis is part of the external male genitals and contains many types of tissue, including skin, nerves, smooth muscle, and blood vessels. Specific treatment for penile cancer is based on several factors including your overall health and medical history, whether cancer spread from the mucosa into other tissues, and other individual factors.

Types of Penile Cancer

Squamous cell carcinoma
About 95 percent of penile cancer is squamous cell carcinoma. This cancer begins in the flat skin cells (squamous cells) of the penis, usually on the foreskin or on the tip of the penis (glans). Squamous cell penile cancer grows slowly and can be cured if found early.

Melanomas occur in skin that was over-exposed to the sun. They can occur in other spots, such as on the penis. Just a small percentage of penile cancers are melanomas.

Basal cell carcinoma
Basal cell is another kind of skin cancer that can impact the penis. It too makes up just a small percentage of all cases of penile cancer. It is slow-growing and rarely spreads to other parts of the body.

Adenocarcinoma (Paget disease of the penis)
This is a rare type of penile cancer. It can develop from sweat glands in the skin of the penis.

Sarcomas are a small portion of penile cancers. They develop from smooth muscle, blood vessels, or other connective tissue cells within the penis.

Why Choose Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center?

Sylvester is an NCI-designated cancer center. The National Cancer Institute has recognized Sylvester for its outstanding work conducting research in its laboratories, treating patients in its clinics and hospitals, and reaching out to medically underserved communities with innovative prevention strategies.

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Penile cancer treatment is based on several individual factors, including the extent of the disease, your overall health condition, and your medical history. You have the services of our multidisciplinary team of cancer specialists who will work together to develop a comprehensive treatment plan for you and your cancer. Types of treatments may include:

  • Surgery

    For all stages of penile cancer, surgery is the most common treatment. Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center offers the following types of surgery, based on your exact diagnosis.

    • Mohs Microsurgery: In this delicate procedure, the tumor is cut from the skin in thin layers. The surgeon views the edges of the tumor on each layer of tumor removed through a microscope to check for cancer cells. This type of surgery removes as little healthy tissue as possible and is often used to remove cancer on the skin.

    • Laser Surgery: With a laser beam, the surgeon makes bloodless cuts in the tissue, or to remove a surface tumor.

    • Cryosurgery: This treatment involves freezing abnormal tissue to destroy it.

    • Circumcision: If the tumor is on the foreskin of the penis, it can be removed by circumcision.

    • Wide Local Excision: Surgery removes cancerous cells and some healthy tissue around it.

    • Amputation of the Penis: If cancer is in all or most of the penis, the surgeon might recommend a partial or total penectomy. A new penis can be rebuilt.

  • Chemotherapy

    The purpose of chemotherapy is to shrink the cancer cells when it has spread to other body parts of the body. It also treats tumors that cannot be treated with surgery or radiation therapy. In some cases, it may be used to reduce the size of a tumor before surgery. Stage 0 penile cancer can be treated with topical (a lotion or cream) chemotherapy.

    • If you require intravenous (infusion) chemotherapy, you can receive it at the Comprehensive Treatment Unit (CTU) at Sylvester's main location in Miami. This 12,000-square-foot unit includes 33 recliners and 11 private rooms. If you prefer, you may have your infusion treatments at the Kendall, Plantation, Hollywood, Coral Springs, and Deerfield Beach locations.

  • Biologic Therapy

    Biologic Therapy – also called biotherapy or immunotherapy – relies on your immune system to fight cancer. Substances made by the body or within a laboratory boost, direct, or restore the body's natural defenses against cancer. Topical biologic therapy with imiquimod can be used in cases of stage 0 penile cancer.

  • Radiation Therapy

    This treatment is typically used before or after surgery, to shrink a tumor or to treat remaining cancer cells. If surgery is not possible, radiation therapy alone can treat penile cancer. External radiation therapy precisely sends high levels of radiation directly to the cancer cells using a machine directed at the body. Sometimes, internal radiation called brachytherapy can be used to direct radiation internally to a penile tumor. Radiation treatments are painless. They typically last only a few minutes.


In addition to a complete medical history and physical examination, diagnosing penile cancer usually includes:

  • Biopsy

    Suspicious cells are removed and viewed under a microscope by a pathologist (a cellular expert). The pathologist will check for signs of cancer. Once penile cancer is diagnosed, additional tests are performed to determine if cancer cells have spread inside the penis, or outside to other body parts.

  • Computed Tomography Scan (CT or CAT Scan)

    This procedure makes detailed pictures of areas inside the body, taken from different angles. Dye is injected into a vein or can also be swallowed, which helps organs or tissues show up more clearly.

  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) 

    This procedure combines the use of a magnet, radio waves, and a computer to produce detailed pictures of specific areas inside the body. A substance injected into a vein collects around the cancer cells so they show up brighter in the picture.

  • Ultrasound Exam

    An ultrasound exam uses high-energy sound waves (ultrasound) that are bounced off internal tissues or organs to produce echoes. This, in turn, forms a picture of body tissues called a sonogram.

  • Sentinel Lymph Node Biopsy

    The surgeon removes the first lymph node the cancer is likely to spread to from the tumor, identified by injecting a dye near the tumor and watching for the lymph node it flows to first. That node is then removed and carefully checked by a pathologist under a microscope to look for cancer cells. It may not be necessary to remove more lymph nodes if cancer cells are not found.

Accepted Insurances

Note: Health plans that are currently contracted with UHealth are listed below. However, please check with your insurance provider to verify that UHealth is part of your provider network.