Sex and Penile Cancer

Treatment for penile cancer will often change the appearance or function of the penis. We hope that this guide to sexual issues and penile cancer is helpful.

Take Time to Think

This section includes guidance on what to expect and tips on how to adjust to a change in sexuality. It is important that men and their partners are aware of these issues and can work through them together.

Our Orchid helpline is on hand to offer support and practical advice at all times during the treatment journey.

Surgery and Penile Cancer

Wide Local Incision

This is a surgical procedure to remove an area of cancer. It may cause the penis to become swollen and tender. Once the affected area has healed, there may be some scarring at the site of the operation and the penis may be a slightly different shape. However, men should still be able to have an erection and maintain sexual intercourse.


After a glansectomy and skin graft, sexual intercourse may feel different. This is because part of the glans (head of the penis),  is removed. The glans is the most sensitive part of the penis. A skin graft using skin from another area of the body, may be used to make the penis look as normal as possible.

The nerves and blood supply which control erections will usually be left intact and men should be able to have sexual intercourse as they did prior to surgery. However it will take some time for the swelling from the surgery to heal. It may also take a while to adjust mentally. A skin graft may also be a slightly different colour from the rest of the penis.

Partial Penectomy

A partial penectomy is surgery to remove part of the penis.  Studies investigating the effect this type of surgery may have on sexuality suggest that over 50% of men who have partial penectomy can still maintain an erection, although it is likely to take time for men to adjust psychologically to the altered appearance of the penis.

Total Penectomy

A total penectomy is surgery to remove the entire penis. Normal sexual intercourse will not be possible and men may worry that they will not be able to  fulfil their partner’s sexual needs.

In this situation men and theirr partners may wish to explore other ways of maintaining their sex life. For instance there are  multiple erogenous (sensitive) zones througout the body that may allow  similar sensations to sex.

The use of adult toys such as vibrators and massagers may bring pleasure to both. Although many people may feel that there is a stigma attached to this type of sexual gratification, many people all over the world make use of these methods to enhance their sex life.

You may find that talking to your partner is difficult or that you need expert advice and counselling. There are also specialist counsellors (psychosexual counsellors) who can help men and their partners come to terms with new types of intimacy.

Erectile Dysfunction

Men who have had surgery to the penis, may feel that any difficulty in getting an erection is due to their treatment. However, it is important to understand that there are other conditions and lifestyle factors that can affect erectile function that are not related, such as high blood pressure, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

Medication such as Viagra and similar tablets can help with erections although physical sexual stimulation is required to help them work. Other treatments include medical injections and creams. However men who may have a heart condition or are on nitrate or anticoagulant medication, will need to check with their specialist team that these treatments are suitable for them to use.