Changes to how your body looks after penile cancer surgery

It can be very difficult to cope with changes to your body after surgery, especially to your penis. Immediately after surgery your genital area will be swollen. It can be a shock to see the changes even if your doctor told you beforehand what to expect.

How you look will depend on the surgery you had.

After wide local excision

You will have a scar after a wide local excision. The shape of your penis might have changed slightly. This depends on how much tissue the surgeon removed. 

After removal of the head of the penis (a glansectomy) with a skin graft 

Your penis will be smaller and the glans will no longer be there. It will look like a circumcised penis. You will still have an opening in the middle of your penis for passing urine.

After removal of the penis (total penectomy)

You will have a scar where the surgeon removed your penis. You have an opening between your anus and your scrotum for passing urine. You will need to sit down on the toilet to pass urine.

Who can help

There are several things that may help you cope with changes in the way your genital area may look after treatment. They may not take away all the emotional pain, but they can make things easier. They include:

  • talking to your surgeon before your surgery
  • talking to a man who has had a similar experience
  • talking to the people close to you
  • getting help and support

Talking to your surgeon before your operation

This is probably one of the most important things you can do, even if you feel at the time that you are not ready to know how surgery may change your penis. But talking to your surgeon before your operation really will help you deal with things later on.

Ask your surgeon to tell you exactly what they are going to do and how you will look. You are likely to be very swollen and sore immediately after your surgery, but this is temporary and not how you will look forever. Do not be afraid to ask your surgeon questions. They will be sensitive to how worried you are about changes in your body and will want to reassure you.

Talking to a man who has had a similar experience

This may not help everyone so do not feel you have to do this. But some people find it very helpful and reassuring to speak with someone else who has had the same treatment as them. Your specialist may be able to put you in touch with someone who has had a similar experience.

Support from family and friends

Close family and friends will want to help. Some people may choose not to share too much with these people because they do not want to upset them, or feel too shy about their surgery to talk openly. Often sharing your feelings can bring people together.

If you are having problems with your intimate and sexual relationships because you feel that you are no longer attractive, try letting your partner know how you are feeling. Explaining how you feel can help them understand, and help you.

Your feelings and getting help and support

People react very differently to cancer treatment. The penis and genital areas are private parts of your body and you may find it very difficult to talk about how you are feeling. It can sometimes affect your self confidence and you may need time to come to terms with the changes that treatment brings. It is natural to go through a time of adjusting to change.

Feelings may be mixed with relief that you've had treatment. Your initial feelings of fear, shock or anger should improve, particularly with the support from family or friends.

If these negative feelings don't go, you may be becoming depressed. Talk to your doctor or specialist nurse if you are worried about this. Counselling may help or your doctor might suggest a course of anti depressants. This isn't unusual after cancer treatment. It won't be forever and will help you over a difficult period.

For support and information you can call the Cancer Research UK nurses on freephone 0808 800 4040, from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday.

You are also able to chat to other people affected by cancer in our online forum. Our team of moderators and nurses are also on hand to support you.

Orchid have a National Male Cancer Helpline (Monday, Wednesday and Friday 9.30 am - 5.30 pm) staffed by an Orchid Male Cancer Information Nurse. You can call them on 0808 802 0010.

We have information about other organisations that offer help and support.

Last reviewed: 
21 Jan 2021
Next review due: 
21 Jan 2024
  • Guidelines on Penile Cancer

    O W Hakenberg and others

    European Association of Urology (EAU), 2018

  • Identifying the needs of penile cancer sufferers: a systematic review of the quality of life, psychosexual and psychosocial literature in penile cancer

    S Maddineni and others

    BMC Urology, 2009. Volume 9, Issue 8

  • Penis Cancer: The Lived Experience

    H Gordon and others

    Cancer Nursing, 2017. Volume 40 Number 2

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