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Stage 3

The stage of a cancer tells you how big it is and whether it has spread. It helps your doctor plan the best treatment for you.

Stage 3 is part of the number staging system and has two stages, stage 3A and 3B.

Stage 3A

Stage 3A means the cancer involves the penis and one or two lymph nodes in the groin (inguinal). The cancer might have grown into the deeper tissues of the penis (the corpus spongiosum or corpus cavernosum), the urethra, or nearby vessels (such as blood or lymph vessels or nerves).

The cancer has not spread to other parts of the body, including nearby structures such as the bladder or prostate gland.

Stage 3B

Stage 3B means the cancer involves the penis and has spread to more than 3 groin lymph nodes. Or it might have spread to lymph nodes on both sides of the groin.

The cancer might have grown into the deeper tissues of the penis (the corpus spongiosum or corpus cavernosum), the urethra, or nearby vessels (such as blood or lymph vessels or nerves).

The cancer has not spread to other parts of the body, including nearby structures such as the bladder or prostate gland.

TNM staging system

In the TNM staging system:

Stage 3A is the same as T1, T2 or T3 and N1, M0

Stage 3B is the same as T1, T2 or T3 and N2, M0

Treatment

The stage of your cancer helps your doctor to decide which treatment you need. Treatment also depends on:

  • your type of cancer (the type of cells the cancer started in)
  • where the cancer is
  • other health conditions that you have

For this stage of cancer, you usually need to have surgery to remove part of the penis or the whole penis. Your surgeon will try to avoid the need to remove all of the penis, but this may not be possible for everyone. Your healthcare team will explain your operation and what this involves. And there is help and support available. 

Some people have chemotherapy, or chemotherapy with radiotherapy, before surgery.

Lymph nodes in the groin 

You also have treatment for the lymph nodes in the groin. You might have the nodes removed with surgery (lymphadenectomy). Or you may have radiotherapy to the lymph nodes in the groin. If you have surgery, you might have radiotherapy afterwards. 

If the lymph nodes are very large you might have chemotherapy (with or without radiotherapy). 

Other stages

Last reviewed: 
04 Jan 2021
Next review due: 
04 Jan 2024
  • American Joint Committee on Cancer (AJCC) Manual (8th edition)

    S Edge and others (editors)

    Springer, 2017

  • Guidelines on Penile Cancer
    OW Hakenberg and others
    European Association of Urology (EAU), 2016

  • Cancer and its management (7th edition)
    J Tobias and D Hochhauser
    Wiley-Blackwell, 2015