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Penile cancer

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If penile cancer spreads

Cancer cells have the potential to spread from the penis to other parts of the body where they can grow into new tumours. This process is called metastasis. The tumours are also called a metastasis (singular) or metastases (plural). Metastases are also called secondary tumours.

Understanding the usual progression of cancer helps the doctor to predict its probable course, plan treatment and anticipate further care.

The most common sites where penile cancer spreads are:

  • lymph nodes in the groin and pelvis
    • Penile cancer commonly spreads to the lymph nodes first because cancer cells from the tumour travel mainly through the lymphatic system.
    • Penile cancer usually spreads in a stepwise fashion:
      • first to lymph nodes in the groin (inguinal lymph nodes)
      • then to lymph nodes in the pelvis
      • lastly to distant sites in the body
    • It is rare to see cancer in the pelvic lymph nodes or distant metastasis without cancer in the groin lymph nodes.
  • lung
  • liver
  • bone
  • brain

Penile cancer rarely spreads to distant sites. However distant metastasis may occur with advanced disease.


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