You might feel shocked and upset when you find out you have penile cancer. These feelings are a natural response. People often feel numb or frightened or uncertain. 

You might also feel confused or angry. Or you may feel totally different. Sometimes it is hard to take in the fact that you have cancer at all.

Many men who have penile cancer worry that they will be less attractive to their partner. This can have an effect on your self esteem. These feelings are common.

It might be helpful to remember that the people closest to you won't think of you differently than before. They will want to support you as much as they can. Let them know how you feel. Sharing your feelings can make you feel less isolated and more able to cope with things. 

All sorts of feelings are likely to come and go. But everyone reacts in their own way. Your family and friends will probably have strong feelings too.

Helping yourself

You may be more able to cope and make decisions if you have information about your type of cancer and its treatment. Information helps you to know what to expect.

Taking in information can be difficult, especially when you have just been diagnosed. Make a list of questions before you see your doctor. Take someone with you to remind you what you want to ask. They can also help you to remember the information that was given. Getting a lot of new information can feel overwhelming.

Ask your doctors and nurses to explain things again if you need them to.

Remember that you don’t have to sort everything out at once. It might take some time to deal with each issue. Ask for help if you need it.

Talking to other people

Talking to your friends and relatives about your cancer can help and support you. But some people are scared of the emotions this could bring up and won’t want to talk. They might worry that you won't be able to cope with your situation.

It can strain relationships if your family or friends don't want to talk. But talking can help increase trust and support between you.

Try to be open with your partner. It might help if you both share how you feel about your cancer. Some men feel that they are no longer attractive after their penile surgery. This may cause problems with sex and intimacy. Let your partner know about these feelings.

Help your family and friends by letting them know you would like to talk about what’s happening and how you feel.

You might find it easier to talk to someone outside your own friends and family.

You can call the Cancer Research UK nurses on freephone 0808 800 4040, from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday.

Who can help?

Specialist nurses can help you if you’re finding it difficult to cope or if you have any problems. They can get you the help you need. They can also give you information.

Support organisations such as Orchid - Fighting Male Cancer provide advice, information and help people to share their experience of cancer.  

Support groups such as Relate offer counselling and psychosexual therapy to help with relationship problems.

Physical problems

Penile cancer and its treatments are likely to cause physical changes in your body. These might affect the way you feel about yourself.

Men with penile cancer worry how physical changes to their body will affect their self image, how they will cope with daily things like passing urine, and how it will affect intimate relationships and their sex life.

Changes such as weight and hair loss can affect your self esteem and the way you relate to other people. Your dietitian can help you maintain your weight and your nurse can help you look at ways to cope with hair loss.

Tiredness and feeling lethargic a lot of the time is common during treatment and for some months afterwards. Resting but also doing some gentle physical activity can help.

Relationships and sex

The physical and emotional changes you have might affect your relationships and sex life. There are things that you can do to manage this.

Coping practically

You and your family might need to cope with practical things including:

  • money matters
  • financial support, such as benefits, sick pay and grants
  • work issues
  • childcare

Talk to your doctor or specialist nurse to find out who can help. Getting help early with these things can mean that they don’t become a big issue later.

Our coping practically section has more information about all these issues. 

Last reviewed: 
13 Jan 2021
Next review due: 
13 Jan 2024
  • Improving supportive and palliative care for adults with cancer

    National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), March 2004.

  • Guidelines on Penile Cancer
    OW Hakenberg and others
    European Association of Urology (EAU), 2018

  • Penile carcinoma: ESMO clinical practice guidelines

    HN Van Poppel and others

    Annals of Oncology, 2013. Volume 24, Supplement 6

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