Staging Penile Cancer


Once the results of all of the investigations that have been performed and are available it will be possible to create a clinical picture showing the extent to which cancer has affected the body.

Like many cancers, penile cancer is assessed using several methods. One of the most common is called the TNM system where:


T stands for tumour size.

This can be given a value of 1 – 4 indicating how big the area of cancer is within the penis.


The cancer has not invaded below the superficial (surface) layer of skin. It has not spread to lymph nodes or distant parts of the body.


A wart like growth that is superficial and has not spread to any other areas.


A low-grade cancer has grown just below the superficial layer of skin. It has not spread to lymph nodes or distant parts of the body.


Higher grade cancer that has affected surrounding tissue and blood vessels but still superficial.


The cancer has grown into blood or lymph vessels and/or into the internal chambers of the penis and/or the urethra.


The cancer has grown no further than the urethra.


The cancer has grown into nearby tissues.

 Penile TNM


N  Stands for lymph nodes (please see information above).


Lymph nodes do not contain cancer cells.


There is a lymph node in the groin which has been affected.


There are lymph nodes on either side of the groin which have been affected.


Lymph nodes in the abdomen have been affected.


M  This stands for metastases or spread of cancer to other areas of the body.


There is no evidence that the cancer has spread to other organs.


The cancer has spread to the lungs or distant lymph nodes furthest away from the penis.


Organs such as the liver or brain have been affected.

 Penile body


A grade of cancer can also be given to determine how potentially aggressive the cancerous cells may be.This is identified by how abnormal the cancerous cells look compared to normal healthy cells under a microscope.


Describes cells that look similar to like normal tissue cells.


The cells are somewhat different from normal cells.


Describes tumour cells that look very much like each other but don’t look very much like normal cells.


The tumour cells barely look like normal cells.


A stage of penile cancer can also be worked out using the information above:

Any proposed treatment will be based on all of these results and decided by a specialist team called a Multi-Disciplinary Team (MDT); a team of urologists, oncologists (cancer specialists), radiologists (X-ray specialists), pathologists and specialist nurses.Based on a review of all these results treatment options will be recommended and relayed to men by their specialist team. Any recommendations will be based on the team’s clinical experience and national guidelines.

For information on treatments please click here


Reviewed March 2021. Next review 2022.


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