Other treatments for penile cancer

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

Your doctor may recommend treatment with lasers or creams for very early penile cancer, or penile intraepithelial neoplasia (PeIN).

Laser treatment

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 local or general anaesthetic. If you have a general anaesthetic you are asleep for the whole operation.

Chemotherapy cream

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

You usually have your foreskin removed (circumcision) before you have topical creams.

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.

You don't lose your hair with chemotherapy creams.

  • European Association of Urology-American Society of Clinical Oncology Collaborative Guideline on Penile Cancer: 2023 Update
    O Brouwer and others
    European Urology, 2023, Volume 83, Issue 6, Pages 548-560

  • British Association of Dermatologists guidelines for the management of people with cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma in situ (Bowen disease) 2022
    A Sharma and others
    The British Journal of Dermatology, 2023. Volume 10, Issue 2, Pages 186-194

  • Cancer: Principles and Practice of Oncology (12th edition)
    VT DeVita, TS Lawrence, SA Rosenberg
    Wolters Kluwer, 2023

  • 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

  • The information on this page is based on literature searches and specialist checking. We used many references and there are too many to list here. Please contact patientinformation@cancer.org.uk with details of the particular issue you are interested in if you need additional references for this information.

Last reviewed: 
28 Feb 2024
Next review due: 
28 Feb 2027

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