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Penile cancer staging is used to describe how far a cancer has spread. Generally speaking, there are five stages of penile cancer, ranging from 0 to 5. The lower the stage of the cancer, the smaller the tumor and the less aggressive the cell type.

The process of staging a penile cancer staging involves three steps:

  • For the first step, a pathologist examines a sample of the cancerous cells under a microscope. By comparing the cancerous cells to healthy cells, the pathologist is able to estimate how quickly the cancer can be expected to spread. This step is known as “grading.”

  • During the second step, an oncologist assesses three factors set forth by the American Joint Committee on Cancer’s TNM staging system: the size, location and grade of the primary lesion (T, or tumor), the extent of the spread to the lymph nodes in the groin (N, or node) and the extent of the tumor’s growth to other parts of the body (M, or metastasis). The oncologist then assigns a numerical grade to each of these factors.

  • In the third step, the oncologist combines the T, N and M factors to assign a single stage to the cancer. Stage 0 cancers have not grown below the surface layer of the skin; stage 1 cancers have grown just below the surface of the skin; stage 2 cancers have started to grow into a few local lymph nodes or internal chambers of the penis; stage 3 cancers have spread to the urethra and the local lymph nodes; and stage 4 cancers have spread to the scrotum, prostate or throughout the lymph nodes in the groin and pelvis.

The multispecialty team in Moffitt Cancer Center’s Urologic Oncology Program can help a patient determine the stage and grade of his cancer. The team will then use this penile cancer staging information to create an individualized treatment plan.

For more information about penile cancer staging and what it means in regard to your own diagnosis, call 1-888-663-3488 or submit a new patient registration form online. Referrals are not required to schedule an appointment.