The role of penectomy in penile cancer—evolving paradigms

Sarah O’Neill, Mitchell Barns, Filip Vujovic, Mikhail Lozinskiy


Penile cancer is a rare cancer, with the majority treated with penile preserving methods. There remains a role for partial and totally penectomy for advanced and more proximal penile cancers. Significant functional and psychological morbidity can ensue for patients undergoing surgical management. Recent studies and guidelines are changing the way Urologists approach surgical management of penile malignancies. Reductions in safe surgical margin recommendations from 2 cm to 3–5 mm provide surgeons with the ability to perform penile preserving techniques to maximise patient functionality. These guidelines are reflected by recent studies showing that smaller surgical margins; although heralding higher rates of local recurrence, have no detriment on cancer specific or overall survival rate. Although oncological clearance remains the primary outcome for surgical management of penile cancer, the ability to perform radical salvage surgery at a later date means patients are more likely to experience a longer period of functionality without sacrificing oncologic outcomes. The importance of patient education on regular self-examination as well as clinic follow up are key in identifying local recurrence and planning salvage surgery if needed to maintain oncologic control. Ongoing studies into the functional and psychological outcomes of patients undergoing partial penectomy show encouraging results however further studies are needed to elucidate long-term outcomes. The evolving paradigm of surgical management in penile malignancy is shifting to favour organ preserving techniques in order to maximise functional, psychological and aesthetic outcomes without compromising patients’ oncologic outcomes—however a role still exists for radical surgery in advanced penile malignancy.