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Other treatments for penile cancer

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

Your doctor may recommend treatment with lasers, 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 CIS, 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 (5FU). 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

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 2021
Next review due: 
13 Dec 2024
  • Guidelines on Penile Cancer

    OW Hakenberg and others

    European Association of Urology (EAU), 2018

  • 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

  • Penile carcinoma: ESMO clinical practice guidelines

    HN Van Poppel and others

    Annals of Oncology, 2013. Volume 24, Supplement 6

  • 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

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

    M Machan and others

    Dermatologic Surgery, 2016. Volume 42, Number 8