Penectomy for the Treatment of Penile Cancer: Overview
The treatment of cancer is one of the most promising areas in medicine today. The number of new cases diagnosed each year is increasing rapidly.
With this rapid increase comes a need for better treatments that are less invasive and more effective than those available before. One such area where advances have been made recently is surgical techniques to treat cancerous tumors on the genitals or other genital organs (1).
Cancerous growths are often found in conjunction with benign growths. These benign growths may include hair follicles, sweat glands, sebaceous glands, lymph nodes, and even skin cancers.
When these benign growths grow out of control they become malignant tumors which require removal to prevent their spread throughout the body. Surgery is used to remove these tumors because it is a safe procedure that does not involve any risk of infection or bleeding.
Surgery is a very successful treatment option for many types of cancer. However, there are some types of cancer that cannot be treated effectively using surgery alone.
For example, the use of radiation therapy to kill off cancer cells is ineffective against certain forms of leukemia (2). Other cancers that cannot be cured through surgery include those involving blood vessels or nerves (3), and sarcomas (4) (5).
Another type of tumor that requires surgical intervention is penile carcinoma. The term penile carcinoma refers to a malignant tumor that begins in the skin or the tissue underneath the skin of the glans, the corona, or the prepuce.
A common type of penile carcinoma is squamous cell carcinoma (6).
The standard treatment for most types of penile cancer is surgical removal of the tumor along with a 1-2 cm margin of normal tissue around the tumor. This type of surgery is called an excision biopsy.
The area where the tumor was removed is typically examined using a microscope after it has been removed to check for signs of cancer cells. This procedure is called a histopathological examination (7).
If the excision biopsy finds no signs of cancer cells within the margin of normal tissue, then the patient is clear of cancer and their treatment is complete. If the excision biopsy finds any signs of cancer cells, then the standard treatment for that cancer is repeated.
If malignant cells are found again, then the next step in treatment is more extensive surgery to remove a larger portion of the genitals.
Unfortunately, for some types of cancer, this larger surgery is the only viable treatment option. For others, it may buy some time before the cancer becomes resistant to further surgical removal (8).
For these types of cancer, treatment options after surgery become more experimental and less proven to be effective.
One of the more common types of cancer that falls into this category is penile carcinoma. Tumors in this category typically start as a small, painless wart or area of discoloration on the skin, and grow very slowly over many years (9).
Over time, some may develop ulceration and bleeding. Other than this symptom, there are rarely any others until the cancer has become very large, requiring extensive surgery to remove.
Sources & references used in this article:
Sexual function after partial penectomy for penile cancer by FR Romero, KRP dos Santos Romero, MAE de Mattos… – Urology, 2005 – Elsevier
Long-term followup of penile carcinoma treated with penectomy and bilateral modified inguinal lymphadenectomy by CAL D’ANCONA, RG De Lucena… – The Journal of …, 2004 – auajournals.org
Quality of life after partial penectomy for penile carcinoma by CAL D’ancona, NJ Botega, C De Moraes… – Urology, 1997 – Elsevier