Coronavirus and cancer

We know it’s a worrying time for people with cancer, we have information to help. If you have symptoms of cancer contact your doctor.

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Other treatments

The main treatments for penile cancer include surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy.

Your doctor may recommend treatment with laser, creams or cryotherapy (freezing) for very early penile cancer, or carcinoma in situ (CIS).

Laser treatment

Laser treatment is the most common treatment for carcinoma in situ. 

Your surgeon uses a powerful beam of light that acts like a knife. It cuts away the cancer cells but doesn't go too deep into the tissue. You have a general anaesthetic and will be asleep for the whole operation.

Chemotherapy cream

Chemotherapy cream only kills the cancer cells in the area of skin treated. Doctors use it for in situ, or small early stage cancer on the foreskin or end of the penis. It is called topical chemotherapy.

The chemotherapy drug in the cream is fluorouracil. Or it could be a cream called imiquimod. Imiquimod uses the immune system to fight cancer.

You put the cream on the cancerous area, every day for several weeks. The cream only kills cancer cells in the top layers of the skin. It doesn't treat deeper cancers.

Side effects

Your skin might become sore, red and inflamed when using chemotherapy cream. Tell your doctor or nurse if this happens. They can give you other creams and painkillers to help. These side effects should wear off within a couple of weeks after stopping treatment.


Cryotherapy uses liquid nitrogen to freeze and kill the cancer cells. It treats carcinoma in situ. 

Your doctor puts a probe on the area to freeze the cells. After cryotherapy your skin usually forms a blister, and might form a scab or crust. The scabs usually fall off after a couple of weeks. Once the skin has healed it might be paler in colour.

You can have cryotherapy under a local anaesthetic. But it can sometimes take more than an hour. So you might have either a sedative or a general anaesthetic.

Last reviewed: 
03 Dec 2018
  • Guidelines on Penile Cancer

    O.W. Hakenberg and others

    European Association of Urology (EAU) 2014


    Principles and practice of oncology (8th edition)

    VT De Vita, S Hellman and SA Rosenberg

    Lippincott, Williams and Wilkins, 2008

  • Thulium-yttrium-aluminium-garnet (Tm:YAG) laser treatment of penile cancer: oncological results, functional outcomes, and quality of life

    G Musi and others

    World Journal of Urology 2018 volume 36 number 2 pages 265-270

  • Penile Squamous Cell Carcinoma: Penis-Preserving Treatment With Mohs Micrographic Surgery

    M Machan and others

    Dermatologic Surgery 2016 volume 42 number 8 pages 936-44

  • British Association of Dermatologists' guidelines for the management of squamous cell carcinoma in situ (Bowen's disease) 2014

    C Morton and others

    British Journal of Dermatology 2014 volume 170 number 2 pages 245-60

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