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Diagnosing Penile Cancer

If any changes in the skin on or around your penis seem suspicious, your doctor will order one of several tests to either rule out or confirm penile cancer.

  • Biopsy – A biopsy is typically the first test performed to find out if you have penile cancer. The procedure involves the removal of cells or tissue from the penis that are viewed under a microscope for signs of cancer.
  • Fine Needle Aspiration (FNA) – A thin needle is inserted into the groin area, drawing out cells that are then examined under a microscope for signs of cancer. This type of biopsy is often used to examine the tissue in lymph nodes.

If your biopsy results determine that you have penile cancer, your doctor may order additional tests to find out if the cancer cells have spread within the penis or to other parts of the body.

These imaging tests help your doctor determine what stage the cancer is in and can include:

  • CT or CAT scans
  • MRI scan
  • PET scan
  • Ultrasound exam

Staging Penile Cancer

After reviewing the results of your imaging tests, your doctor will determine the disease state of your cancer to plan the best course of treatment. The following states are used for penile cancer:

Stage I – cancer has formed and spread to connective tissue just under the skin of the penis

Stage II – cancer has spread to erectile tissue or to one lymph node in the groin

Stage III – cancer has spread to connective or erectile tissue and more than one lymph node on either side of the groin; cancer may have also spread to the prostate or urethra

Stage IV – cancer may have spread to several lymph nodes around the groin, to tissues in or around the penis, as well as to other organs or other parts of the body