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    Penile Cancer Treatment (PDQ®): Treatment - Patient Information [NCI] - Stages of Penile Cancer

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    There are three ways that cancer spreads in the body.

    Cancer can spread through tissue, the lymph system, and the blood:

    • Tissue. The cancer spreads from where it began by growing into nearby areas.
    • Lymph system. The cancer spreads from where it began by getting into the lymph system. The cancer travels through the lymph vessels to other parts of the body.
    • Blood. The cancer spreads from where it began by getting into the blood. The cancer travels through the blood vessels to other parts of the body.

    Cancer may spread from where it began to other parts of the body.

    When cancer spreads to another part of the body, it is called metastasis. Cancer cells break away from where they began (the primary tumor) and travel through the lymph system or blood.

    • Lymph system. The cancer gets into the lymph system, travels through the lymph vessels, and forms a tumor (metastatic tumor) in another part of the body.
    • Blood. The cancer gets into the blood, travels through the blood vessels, and forms a tumor (metastatic tumor) in another part of the body.

    The metastatic tumor is the same type of cancer as the primary tumor. For example, if penile cancer spreads to the lung, the cancer cells in the lung are actually penile cancer cells. The disease is metastatic penile cancer, not lung cancer.

    The following stages are used for penile cancer:

    Stage 0 (Carcinoma in Situ)

    In stage 0, abnormal cells or growths that look like warts are found on the surface of the skin of the penis. These abnormal cells or growths may become cancer and spread into nearby normal tissue. Stage 0 is also called carcinoma in situ.

    Stage I

    In stage I, cancer has formed and spread to connective tissue just under the skin of the penis. Cancer has not spread to lymph vessels or blood vessels. The tumor cells look a lot like normal cells under a microscope.

    Stage II

    In stage II, cancer has spread:

    • to connective tissue just under the skin of the penis. Also, cancer has spread to lymph vessels or blood vessels or the tumor cells may look very different from normal cells under a microscope; or
    • through connective tissue to erectile tissue (spongy tissue that fills with blood to make an erection); or
    • beyond erectile tissue to the urethra.
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