Follow-up after treatment for penile cancer
Penile cancer behaves differently in each man, and a standard follow-up schedule would not work for everyone. Men with penile cancer should talk to their doctor about a follow-up plan that suits their individual situation. Follow-up care is often shared among the cancer specialists (oncologists), surgeon, urologist and family doctor.
After treatment has ended, new symptoms and symptoms that don’t go away should be reported to the doctor without waiting for the next scheduled appointment. These may include:
- any new growth on the penis
- any new swelling of the penis
- any new swelling in the groin
The chance of penile cancer recurring is greatest within the first year, so close follow-up is needed during this time.
Follow-up after penile cancer treatment varies. Follow-up visits are usually scheduled:
- 3-6 months after initial treatment
- Men whose lymph nodes are not removed or treated by radiation therapy may be seen 1 month after initial treatment.
- every 3-6 months for the first 2 years
- Men whose lymph nodes are not removed or treated by radiation therapy may be seen as often as once per month in the first year after treatment.
- every 4–12 months after the first 2 years
- every year after 5 years
During a follow-up visit, the doctor usually asks questions about the side effects of treatment and how the person is coping. The doctor may do a complete physical examination, including:
- checking the penis, groin and pelvic area
- feeling the lymph nodes in the groin
- Lymph node enlargement noticed during follow-up after treatment is often due to metastasis.
Tests may be ordered as part of follow-up or if the doctor suspects the cancer has come back (recurred).
- blood tests
- chest x-ray to check for cancer that may have spread to the lungs
- computed tomography (CT) scan to check for cancer that may have spread to distant sites in the body
- ultrasound to check for cancer that may have spread to lymph nodes in the groin
- A fine needle aspiration (FNA) biopsy may also be done at the time of ultrasound to look for changes in the lymph node cells.
- positron emission tomography (PET) scan to check for cancer that has spread to distant sites in the body
- PET scans are not available in all treatment centres.
If a recurrence is found during follow-up, the oncology team will assess the person with cancer to determine the best treatment options.