Radiotherapy uses high energy waves to treat cancer. You can have radiotherapy for penile cancer externally or internally.
When you might have it
Surgery is usually the main treatment for penile cancer. You might have radiotherapy for the following reasons:
- instead of surgery if you are unable to have, or do not want to have, an operation
- instead of surgery to lymph nodes in the groin
- after surgery if there is a risk that cancer cells are left in the groin
- to treat the lymph nodes in the pelvis if there is a high risk of the cancer coming back
Radiotherapy and chemotherapy together (chemoradiotherapy) have been used in research studies, but further studies are necessary.
Radiotherapy to relieve symptoms
You might have radiotherapy to relieve symptoms if penile cancer has spread. This is called palliative radiotherapy. Radiotherapy can shrink the cancer for a period of time and relieve symptoms.
You usually have a short course of daily treatments to the affected area, over a few days.
How you have it
You usually have external radiotherapy (from outside your body) for penile cancer. External radiotherapy destroys cancer cells using radiation aimed at the cancer from a machine.
Some people have internal radiotherapy. This is also called brachytherapy (prounounced brack-ee-therapy). This is when the doctor puts thin radiotherapy tubes or wires on, or inside the penis, close to the tumour.
Before you have treatment
You need to have a circumcision (removal of the foreskin) before you have radiotherapy. Radiotherapy treatment may cause swelling and inflammation of the penis. Removing the foreskin prevents any problems.