Referral to a specialist

Your GP should arrange for you to see a specialist if you have symptoms that could be due to penile cancer. Depending on your symptoms and other factors, this might be an urgent referral.

You might be referred to your local hospital first. This is to see a specialist doctor called a urologist Open a glossary item. The urologist would then refer you to a specialist centre if they think you might have penile cancer. Sometimes this means travelling to another hospital.

Seeing your GP

Most patients who see a GP do not have cancer and have symptoms due to a more minor condition. For some symptoms, your doctor may ask you to wait to see if the symptoms get better or respond to treatment, such as antibiotics.

UK referral guidelines

There are guidelines for GPs to help them decide who needs a referral.

Some of the UK nations have targets around how quickly you’ll be seen. An urgent referral in England means that you should see a specialist within 2 weeks.

This 2 week time limit does not exist in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. But wherever you live, you are seen as quickly as possible.

Ask your GP when you are likely to get an appointment.

Urgent referral

The referral guidelines vary slightly between the different UK nations. The following information is a summary.

Your GP should make an urgent referral if you have:

  • a lump or sore (ulcerated area) on the penis that is not caused by a sexually transmitted infection (STI)
  • a sore area that hasn't gone away after you have had treatment for an STI
  • unexplained or continuing symptoms that affect the foreskin or the head of the penis (glans)

It is important to remember that:

  • penile cancer is rare (around 670 cases a year in the UK)
  • most cases are diagnosed in men over the age of 50

Who you will see

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) recommends that men with penile cancer are treatmed by specialists who work together in multidisciplinary teams (MDTs). The MDT is a team of health professionals who work together to decide on the best way to manage your care. The MDT for cancer of the penis can include:

  • specialist urology doctors (urologists)
  • plastic surgeons
  • doctors who specialise in chemotherapy (medical oncologists)
  • doctors who specialise in radiotherapy (clinical oncologists)
  • doctors who specialise in reading x-rays and scans (radiologists)
  • doctors who specialise in skin conditions (dermatologists)
  • specialist nurses
  • physiotherapists
  • occupational therapists
  • doctors who make a diagnosis from tissue specimens (histopathologists)

If you are still worried

You could make another appointment with your GP if you are concerned they are not taking your symptoms seriously. And you should see your GP again if you continue to have symptoms. Book another appointment if you have had antibiotics and your symptoms are still there.

You could print this page and ask your GP to talk it through with you. Then you might be able to decide together whether you need to see a specialist.

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