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Radiation therapy uses high-energy rays or particles to destroy cancer cells. Radiation may be used for penile cancer:
The amount of radiation given during treatment, and when and how it is given, is often different for each person because it is based on the extent of the tumour. A lead shield may be used to minimize radiation exposure to the testicles in men who wish to preserve their fertility.
Penile cancer may be treated with external beam radiation therapy. A machine directs radiation to the tumour and some of the surrounding tissue.
External beam radiation therapy usually involves having treatments once a day, 5 days a week. The number of treatments will depend on the size of the tumour and type of penile cancer. Generally, treatment is given for about 4-6 weeks. A mould or special device is often used to keep the penis in place during each treatment.
Men who are not already circumcised should have the procedure done before having external beam radiation. External beam radiation therapy can cause the head of the penis (glans) to become inflamed, which can lead to phimosis (foreskin that does not pull back [retract] fully).
Brachytherapy is internal radiation therapy. Radioactive material (radioactive isotope) is inserted right into, or very close to, the tumour. Radioactive materials can also be placed in the area from where the tumour was removed. The radiation kills the cancer cells over time. Brachytherapy is usually given over 4-7 days. The man remains in bed at the hospital while the radiation is delivered.
Men who are not already circumcised should have the procedure done before having brachytherapy. Circumcision allows the tumour to be fully exposed to the radiation treatment. Like external beam radiation therapy, brachytherapy can cause phimosis (foreskin that does not pull back [retract] fully) in men who are not circumcised.
A catheter will be inserted into the urethraurethraThe tube that carries urine from the bladder to the outside of the body. before brachytherapy is given. This helps the doctor to feel exactly where the urethra is while inserting the radioactive material. The catheter is left in place until the treatment is finished to allow the urine to drain.
Interstitial brachytherapy for penile cancer uses hollow, thin needles. A radioactive source is placed into the needles, which deliver radiation directly to the tumour.
The Canadian Cancer Society’s peer support program is a telephone support service that matches cancer patients and their caregivers with specially trained volunteers.