Up-to-date management of carcinoma of the penis

G. Pizzocaro, L. Piva, G. Bandieramonte, S. Tana

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Squamous cell carcinoma is the most common tumour of the penis. It is a rare disease in Western countries, and it is often associated with phimosis, poor hygiene or human papilloma virus infection. It could be prevented or diagnosed early in most cases, but, due to cultural and educational reasons, it is often diagnosed late. Nodal metastases are relatively common, but distant dissemination is very rare. Radical surgery gives the best control of the primary tumour, but it is mutilating. Laser surgery for limited superficial lesions and sophisticated radiotherapy for relatively small infiltrating tumours have been successfully employed, alone or in combination with chemotherapy. The use of radical surgery can therefore be restricted to cases which are unsuitable for conservative treatment or to relapses. Survival mainly depends on nodal metastases, but management of regional lymph nodes is controversial. Radical inguinal or ileoinguinal lymphadenectomy can cure approximately 40-50% of patients with positive nodes, but nearly half of the patients with clinically enlarged nodes actually have no metastases. Invalidating oedema is a frequent complication of inguinal lymphadenectomy. The point is to restrict the operation to patients with positive nodes. Expectant policy can be dangerous because results of delayed lymphadenectomy are usually poor. Fine needle aspiration biopsy and imaging may be of help in diagnosing nodal metastases. Modified surgical procedures have been advocated in order to obtain a pathological staging of the inguinal nodes avoiding invalidating sequelae, but results are controversial. Depth of invasion, tumour grade and growth pattern are of help in identifying patients at a very high risk of harbouring nodal metastases. Squamous cell carcinoma of the penis is relatively responsive to chemotherapy. Limited experiences suggest that adjuvant chemotherapy can improve the long-term survival of patients with radically resected positive nodes, and primary chemotherapy can make resectable approximately 50% of cases with fixed inguinal metastases. However, chemotherapy alone is not curative for metastatic disease.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5-15
Number of pages11
JournalEuropean Urology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1997


  • Cancer
  • Management
  • Penis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Urology


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