If your healthcare provider believes you may have penile cancer, you will need certain exams and tests to be sure. Expect to be questioned about your health history, your symptoms, risk factors and family history of disease. Understanding your background will help your provider make a diagnosis.

They will also give you a physical exam, including an exam of your penis and genitals. You may have one or more of the following tests.

A biopsy removes tissue or cells from the penis to be checked by a pathologist under a microscope. This is the only way to confirm penile cancer. Results from a biopsy help determine if cells are cancerous.

Depending on the type of penile biopsy, the procedure is done either with general or local anesthesia by a penile cancer radiologist. Local anesthesia uses medicine to numb the area of the penis where a needle will be inserted.

A biopsy may be performed with imaging guidance. Ask your provider about your specific type of biopsy to learn more.

Patients will be contacted after a biopsy by a Markey team member to review results. Further management will be recommended at that time.

If penile cancer is confirmed, your doctor may require imaging to determine where the cancer is in the penis or if the cancer has spread elsewhere. Imaging could include:

  • CT scan, which can show how big a tumor is and whether cancer is in your lymph nodes.
  • MRI, which provides a different type of detailed imaging than a CT scan. An MRI for penile cancer is usually done when your penis is erect. (You will be given medication for this test)
  • Ultrasound, which can determine how deeply the cancer has spread into your penis.
  •  X-ray, which may be done to see if the cancer has spread to the lungs.

When you are diagnosed with penile cancer, it is common to feel a sense of urgency around starting treatment. However, in most cases, there is time to do the needed research to ensure that your diagnosis is correct. That may include getting a second opinion.

Our team of experts works together to diagnose, treat and prevent penile cancer, with a focus on individualized patient care. 

Markey is among the best cancer centers in the nation, according to U.S. News & World Report, when it comes to advanced treatment options, survival rates and experienced providers. As the first and only NCI-designated comprehensive cancer center in Kentucky, Markey can serve many patients each year with rare and common cancers, including penile cancer.

Our specialized team is happy to work with your doctors and communicate to ensure confidence in your diagnosis.

A second opinion can help to ensure that you will be getting the latest and most effective therapy for treating penile cancer. The following are common reasons for seeking a second opinion after your initial diagnosis:

  • You are having difficulty understanding your diagnosis.
  • A dedicated team specialized in your cancer type may not be available in your area.
  • There may be uncertainty around the stage of penile cancer.
  • You may want to learn more about different treatment options, including clinical trials and advanced technologies only available at an advanced center like Markey.
  • Your health insurance requires a second opinion before continuing toward treatment.

Questions to ask when getting a second opinion

After receiving a cancer diagnosis, you may have a lot on your mind. Here a few questions to keep in mind for your doctor when seeking a second opinion:

  • Are there additional tests I should take before moving forward with treatment?
  • Is there a chance that my medical problem could have a different diagnosis?
  • Do you recommend any treatments at this time?
  • How long are treatment recovery periods?
  • What do you expect to happen if I wait or don't have the treatment?
  • What are the side effects of treatment?

For more information, visit these trusted national sources for a variety of additional educational tools and resources:

NCI Comprehensive Cancer Center - A Cancer Center Designated by the National Cancer Institute

Markey Cancer Center is designated by the National Cancer Institute as a Comprehensive Cancer Center – a distinction that recognizes our commitment to accelerating precision cancer research and care to patients. We are the first and only NCI-Comprehensive Cancer Center in Kentucky, and one of 57 in the nation.