Penile Cancer

If you have been diagnosed with penile cancer, Hoag has the science, research, treatment options and minimally-invasive techniques you need to beat even rare and potentially life-changing urological conditions like penile cancer. It is our mission to keep patients informed and supported, while taking every step to restore or preserve normal function.


You are not alone.

Hoag Family Cancer Institute’s team of specialized urologic cancer experts offer each patient a personalized treatment plan. Our patient-centered support systems, next generation treatment options and top ranked standards of care treat body, spirit and mind. From robotic surgery to our largest-in-California pelvic floor therapy program, Hoag has what it takes to help you heal and live your best life.



Diagnosing Penile Cancer

How is Penile Cancer Diagnosed 

After discussing your symptoms and medical history with your doctor, you will likely be given a thorough medical exam, which may be followed by other tests. Penile cancer is usually diagnosed through surgical biopsy, in which a small sample of tissue is removed so it can be examined in a lab for the presence of cancer.

Depending on the outcome of the biopsy, the next step is to understand if cancer cells have spread within the penis or to other parts of the body. Your doctor may refer you to a urologic specialist for other tests that may include:

  • CT scan (CAT scan)
  • PET scan (positron emission tomography scan)
  • MRI (magnetic resonance imaging)
  • Ultrasound exam
  • Chest x-ray
  • Biopsy
    • Sentinel lymph node biopsy
    • Lymph node dissection

These tests help to determine at which stage your cancer may be. These stages include:

  • Stage 0 – this stage is divided into stages 0is and 0a.
    • In stage 0is, abnormal cells are found on the surface of the skin of the penis. These abnormal cells form growths that may become cancer and spread into nearby normal tissue. Stage 0is is also called carcinoma in situ or penile intraepithelial neoplasia.
    • In stage 0a, squamous cell cancer that does not spread is found on the surface of the skin of the penis or on the underneath surface of the foreskin of the penis. Stage 0a is also called noninvasive localized squamous cell carcinoma.
  • Stage I – cancer has formed and spread to tissue just under the skin of the penis. Cancer has not spread to lymph vessels, blood vessels, or nerves. The cancer cells look more like normal cells under a microscope.
  • Stage II – this stage is divided into stages IIA and IIB.
    • In stage IIA, cancer has spread:
      • to tissue just under the skin of the penis. Cancer has spread to lymph vessels, blood vessels, and/or nerves; or
      • to tissue just under the skin of the penis. Under a microscope, the cancer cells look very abnormal or the cells are sarcomatoid; or
      • into the corpus spongiosum (spongy erectile tissue in the shaft and glans that fills with blood to make an erection).
    • In stage IIB, cancer has spread through the layer of connective tissue that surrounds the corpus cavernosum and into the corpus cavernosum (spongy erectile tissue that runs along the shaft of the penis).
  • Stage III – is divided into stages IIIA and stage IIIB. Cancer is found in the penis.
    • In stage IIIA, cancer has spread to 1 or 2 lymph nodes on one side of the groin.
    • In stage IIIB, cancer has spread to 3 or more lymph nodes on one side of the groin or to lymph nodes on both sides of the groin.
  • Stage IV – cancer has spread:
    • to tissues near the penis, such as the scrotum, prostate, or pubic bone, and may have spread to lymph nodes in the groin or pelvis; or
    • to one or more lymph nodes in the pelvis, or cancer has spread through the outer covering of the lymph nodes to nearby tissue; or
    • to lymph nodes outside the pelvis or to other parts of the body, such as the lung, liver, or bone

Next Steps for Those Diagnosed with Penile Cancer

You can trust Hoag for your penile cancer care. The Hoag Family Cancer Institute offers world-class programs for urologic cancer of all types, with multidisciplinary teams, state-of-the-art facilities and technology and the latest in cancer therapies. 

Learn more about Hoag’s Urologic Cancer Program and our multidisciplinary Urologic Cancer Team.

Treatment Options for Penile Cancer

Treatment options for penile cancer depend on many factors, including how advanced the cancer is when detected, your age and any other health issues you may have. The treatments Hoag recommends for penile cancer vary from patient to patient.

Advanced Surgical Treatments at Hoag

The Hoag Family Cancer Institute’s urologic cancer team includes experienced, fellowship-trained urologic surgical oncologists who utilize the latest techniques and technology in the surgical management of penile cancer. Surgical treatment options for treating penile cancer at Hoag include:

  • Mohs surgery
  • Laser surgery
  • Cryosurgery
  • Circumcision
  • Wide local excision
  • Partial or complete amputation of the penis
Non-Surgical Treatments

As a full-service cancer center, Hoag offers both inpatient and outpatient settings in order to provide the full spectrum of therapeutic care and support a cancer patient needs. You won’t need to travel far as all our outpatient services are also near your home in Orange County. Our non-surgical treatment options for penile cancer include:

  • Immunotherapy (including Cell Therapy)
  • Chemotherapy 
    • Systemic chemotherapy (administered orally or through a vein directly into blood stream)
    • Topical chemotherapy (placing directly onto the skin affecting a regional area only)
  • Radiation Therapy
    • External radiation therapy
    • Internal radiation therapy

Research & Clinical Trials for Penile Cancer

Hoag is committed to leading the way in state-of-the-art technologies and advanced treatment options. Part of this commitment includes clinical research with the goal of helping patients live longer, healthier lives. Through carefully planned clinical trials, researchers evaluate the safety and effectiveness of new ways to diagnose, treat and prevent diseases or conditions. Treatments studied in clinical trials might be new drugs or new combinations of drugs, new surgical procedures or devices, or new ways to use existing treatments. View clinical trials for penile cancer here.

Do I have penile cancer?

What is penile cancer? 

Penile cancer is cancer that occurs in the tissues of the penis. Penile cancers are very rare, but most often occur on the glans or “head” of the penis, or on the foreskin in the case of uncircumcised men.

There are four main types of penile cancer: 

  • Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC): Cancer which begins in the upper levels of the epithelium, which is the outermost layer of skin of the penis. This is the most common type of penile cancer, accounting for around 95 percent of cases 
  • Basal cell carcinoma (BCC): a slow-growing, rarer form of cancer that begins in the lowest layers of the epithelium of the penis
  • Melanoma: Cancer which begins in the pigment-producing cells of the skin
  • Sarcoma: Cancer which begins in the muscle or connective tissue of the penis. This is the rarest form of penile cancer

What are the symptoms of penile cancer?

The symptoms of penile cancer can be different for every patient, but common symptoms can include: 

  • A sore, lump or penile lesion that doesn’t heal within a month
  • Unexplained bleeding from the skin of the penis, including from under the foreskin
  • Smelly discharge from the skin of the penis, even after bathing
  • Painless sores or lumps on the penis that may bleed
  • Lumps in the groin, which may indicate spread to the lymph nodes
  • A rash
  • Phimosis, which is difficulty drawing back your foreskin (if uncircumcised)
  • Unexplained changes in the color of your penis or foreskin
  • Irritation or swelling, particularly in the glans/head of your penis

What are the risk factors for penile cancer?

There are a number of factors that are believed to increase your risk of developing penile cancers. These include: 

  • Infection with the Human Papillomavirus (HPV), which is believed to cause around 60 percent of penile cancer cases
  • Smoking
  • Treatment for the skin condition psoriasis, particularly a form of therapy called PUVA which uses a combination of ultraviolet A (UVA) light and drugs known as psoralens. 
  • A weakened immune system, due to other medical conditions you may have (those with AIDS are particularly susceptible to developing penile cancer) or medical treatments you may have received. 
  • Age, with penile cancer being most common in patients over 50
  • Being uncircumcised

How can I reduce my risk of developing penile cancer? 

Ways to reduce your risk of developing penile cancer include:

  • Get vaccinated for HPV before beginning sexual activity
  • Wear condoms during sex
  • Don’t smoke
  • Good hygiene
  • Keep your immune system healthy by eating a nutritious diet and getting regular exercise
  • If being treated for psoriasis near the groin with PUVA, be sure to have the genitals covered so they aren’t exposed to the light treatment