After surgery

You usually wake up in the recovery unit before moving back to your ward.

Your wound

You have dressings over the area where you had surgery on your penis. If you had removal of the whole penis you will have a dressing over the area between your anus and scrotum.

Your nurse changes the dressings and cleans your wounds while you are in hospital.

Usually the stitches are dissolvable, but you might have stitches that stay in for at least 10 days before they are taken out. Your nurse might take them out before you go home, or a practice nurse or district nurse at your GP surgery might take them out once you are home.

Before you go home the nurse gives you information about how to care for the wound.

If you have had a skin graft, the dressings on this area are left on for 7 to 10 days. Your nurse will let you know how long they stay on for. It’s likely you will go home with the dressings on. Your nurse removes them when you come back to clinic for a check-up.

If you have had your lymph nodes removed you will have a dressing to the wound in your groin or tummy (abdomen). You’ll also have a tube (drain) to take away fluid from this area. Your nurse takes out the wound drains once they stop draining. This is usually about 7 to 14 days after your operation.

Tubes and drains

After surgery such as removal of the head of the penis (glansectomy) or removal of the whole penis (penectomy), you might have several tubes in place. This can be frightening, so it helps to know what they’re for.

You may have:

  • a drip into your arm to give you fluids until you can drink enough
  • a fine tube into the wound to drain away fluid and help the wound to heal
  • a tube into your bladder (catheter) to drain urine

You may also have an oxygen mask on.

Electronic pumps may control any medicines you have through your drip.

Eating and drinking

You can usually eat and drink again as soon as you feel like it. 

Painkillers

It’s normal to have pain for the first week or so. You have painkillers to help.

Tell your doctor or nurse as soon as you feel any pain. They need your help to find the right type and dose of painkiller for you. Painkillers work best when you take them regularly.

Immediately after surgery you might have painkillers through a drip into the bloodstream that you control. This is called patient controlled analgesia (PCA).

Or you might have painkillers through a small thin tube that is put into your back. This tube is connected to a pump that gives you a constant dose of painkillers. This is called an epidural.

You get painkillers to take home. Follow the instructions your nurse gives you about how often and when to take them. Contact your doctor if you still have pain or if it gets worse.

Getting up

Your nurses and physiotherapists help you to move around as soon as possible. They check you’re doing your breathing and leg exercises. This helps you recover.

After removal of the foreskin (circumcision), or surgery for penile intraepithelial neoplasia (PeIN), you can get up as soon as you feel ready.

If you had a skin graft with your glansectomy you may also need to be on bed rest for a day or so.

Making progress

During the first few days after your operation, you should start to feel better. The drips and drains start to come out, you’ll start eating and can move about better.

After a circumcision your penis will be slightly swollen and bruised for about a week. 

After a glansectomy operation you have a tube to drain the urine from your bladder (catheter). And you may need to be on bed rest for a day or so. This gives the skin graft the best chance of healing well. You might go home with a dressing and your catheter in. Someone from your team removes your dressing and catheter in clinic.

After a wide local excision operation you will have some pain after the surgery. Your penis may be swollen for a week to 10 days.

Going home

When you can go home depends on the type of operation you’ve had.

After a circumcision or surgery for penile intraepithelial neoplasia (PeIN) you might go home the same day or the next day. 

If part or all of your penis was removed you stay in hospital for up to 5 days. Everyone is different. It depends on how you are getting on after surgery.

Many people go home with their catheter in for a short amount of time. Your nurse will teach you how to look after it at home. Your nurse gives you details of a follow up outpatient appointment before you go home. Your team remove the catheter at this outpatient appointment.

If you live alone or think you'll struggle to manage on your own, tell the nurses when you first go into hospital. This way they can plan any care you need at home after your operation.

You’ll have follow up appointments to check your recovery and sort out any problems. They‘re also your opportunity to raise any concerns you have about your progress.

Coping

This cancer affects a deeply personal and private part of your body. It can be difficult to cope with changes to your body after surgery.

We have information about possible changes to how your body looks after surgery and who can help you cope.

For support and information, you can call the Cancer Research UK information nurses. They can give advice about who can help you and what kind of support is available. Freephone: 0808 800 4040 - Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm.
Last reviewed: 
21 Jan 2021
Next review due: 
21 Jan 2024
  • Guidelines on Penile Cancer
    OW Hakenberg and others
    European Association of Urology (EAU), 2018

  • Cancer Principles and Practice of Oncology (11th Edition)

    VT DeVita, TS Lawrence and SA Rosenberg

    Wolters Kluwer, 2019

  • Penile carcinoma: ESMO clinical practice guidelines

    HN Van Poppel and others

    Annals of Oncology, 2013. Volume 24, Supplement 6

Related links