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Tests for penile cancer

Men and women discussing penile cancer

Find out about tests for penile cancer (cancer of the penis). There is information about

 

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Tests for penile cancer

If you think you might have cancer of the penis, the first doctor you’re likely to see is your GP. They examine you and ask you about your symptoms and general health. Your GP might refer you to hospital for tests and X-rays, or they may ask you to see a specialist. This is usually a doctor who specialises in diseases of the urinary system and genitals (urologist).

At the hospital

The specialist asks you about your medical history and any symptoms that you have. They examine you again. The specialist also feels the lymph nodes (glands) in your groin. Sometimes cancer cells can spread into these lymph nodes and they may then feel hard. You might also have some blood tests.

Biopsy

Your doctor might want to do a biopsy. This is usually not painful because you have an anaesthetic, either a local or general anaesthetic. If you have a general anaesthetic, you might need to stay in hospital overnight. 

Your doctor takes a small sample of tissue from the affected area of the penis. They then send the sample to the lab. A pathologist looks at it under a microscope to see if there are any cancer cells. If you do have cancer, the pathologist will be able to find out what type of cancer it is.

Lymph node checks

If the lymph nodes in your groin are larger than normal, your doctor might take a sample of fluid to check if there are any cancer cells. This is called a fine needle aspiration (FNA).
 

CR PDF Icon You can view and print the quick guides for all the pages in the diagnosing penile cancer section.

 

 

Visiting your GP

If you think you might have cancer of the penis, the first doctor you’re likely to see is your GP. They will ask you

  • what symptoms you have
  • when you get your symptoms
  • whether anything makes your symptoms better or worse

Your GP also examines you and asks questions about your general health. They might refer you to hospital for tests and X-rays, or to see a specialist. This is usually a doctor who specialises in diseases of the urinary system and genitals (urologist).

 

At the hospital

The specialist asks you about your medical history and any symptoms that you have. They examine you again and also look at the lymph nodes (glands) in your groin. Sometimes cancer cells can spread to the lymph nodes and then they might feel hard or larger than normal.

Your specialist might also arrange some tests. These can include blood tests and a biopsy.

 

Blood tests

You might have a full blood count to check the number of cells in your blood. It gives an idea about your general health too. You also have blood tests to check if your liver and kidneys are working normally.

 

Having a biopsy

Your doctor might want to do a biopsy of the abnormal area on your penis. This is usually not painful as you have an anaesthetic. This may be a local or general anaesthetic. If you have a general anaesthetic, you might need to stay in hospital overnight. 

You may have an incisional or excisional biopsy. 

An incisional biopsy means using a surgical knife (scalpel) to remove a small piece of the abnormal area.

An excisional biopsy removes the whole of the abnormal area. 

Your doctor sends the sample to a laboratory. A specialist doctor called a pathologist looks at it under a microscope. The pathologist can see if the sample contains any cancer cells.

After the biopsy, you have stitches in the area where the skin has been cut. The stitches stay in for about a week. You might have to go back to the hospital to have them taken out. Or they might be dissolvable stitches.

 

Lymph node test

If the lymph nodes in your groin are larger than normal, your doctor might take a sample of fluid. They send it to the lab to check if there are any cancer cells. It is called a fine needle aspiration (FNA). 

Find out more about fine needle aspiration tests for penile cancer.

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Updated: 1 April 2016