Focus on rarer cancers – penile cancer - #worldcancerday2018 

Penile cancer is a rare male genital cancer and due to its sensitive nature, it isn’t talked about often. This World Cancer Day, the Male Genital Cancer Centre at University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (UCLH) is pleased to be given the opportunity to inform people about this condition and the advances being made to improve treatments and care.

There are approximately 600 new cases of penile cancer diagnosed every year in the UK. It most commonly affects the head of the penis or foreskin but can progress to within the penis. Although it commonly affects men in their 50s, at the Male Genital Cancer Centre at UCLH we have treated men aged as young as 19 years old. The most common form is squamous cell carcinoma of the penis, but other rarer types of penile cancer such as melanoma and sarcoma also exist.

The symptoms of penile cancer include a growth or sore on the penis which doesn’t heal within four weeks. There may be bleeding from the penis or under the foreskin, a discharge which smells bad, a change or thickening of the foreskin which makes it difficult to pull it back or a change in the skin colour. Sometimes, men may notice a lump in the groin.

The condition is usually treated initially with surgery to the penis. Penile preserving and reconstructive surgical techniques have become advanced so that cosmetic and functional outcomes are usually very good and men can continue to have sex and urinate standing up. If cancer has been found in the nearby lymph nodes, chemotherapy and radiotherapy may be used before or after surgery.

The Male Genital Cancer Centre at UCLH has been active in the development of a new international trial called InPACT. This trial examines the role of chemotherapy and radiotherapy before and after surgery. There is an ongoing imaging trial investigating the role of PET-MRI for staging inguinal lymph nodes before surgery.

UCLH was also was among the first to use Intensity Modulated Radiotherapy in the management of penile cancer. This enables the treatment to be targeted at the disease whilst minimising the radiation dose to the surrounding normal tissue. This technique helps reduce the side effects. There is also an active research programme to try to understand the biology of this rare cancer, in order to develop new treatment approaches.

Mr Asif Muneer, Consultant Urologist at the Male Genital Cancer Centre at UCLH, said:

“The Male Genital Cancer Centre has a one stop service to diagnose and image new patients with surgery being scheduled within two weeks.”

Dr Anita Mitra, Consultant Oncologist at the Male Genital Cancer Centre at UCLH, said:

“Penile cancer is rare, but treatments are advancing all the time and the outlook for men diagnosed with this condition can be good. There have been a number of major advancements in the management of penile cancer worldwide and at UCLH we are continuing to develop our techniques and strive for the best outcomes for our patients.”

The Male Genital Cancer Centre team at UCLH includes: Dr Anita Mitra, Mr Asif Muneer, Dr Constantine Alifrangis, Mrs Janet Forgenie, Ms Clare Akers, Ms. Sadie Malloy, Prof Peter Malone, Mr Raj Nigam, Dr Miles Walkden and Dr Alex Freeman.

Click here for more information on penile cancer.