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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.

The three ways that cancer spreads in the body are:

  • Through tissue. Cancer invades the surrounding normal tissue.
  • Through the lymph system. Cancer invades the lymph system and travels through the lymph vessels to other places in the body.
  • Through the blood. Cancer invades the veins and capillaries and travels through the blood to other places in the body.

When cancer cells break away from the primary (original) tumor and travel through the lymph or blood to other places in the body, another (secondary) tumor may form. This process is called metastasis. The secondary (metastatic) tumor is the same type of cancer as the primary tumor. For example, if breast cancer spreads to the bones, the cancer cells in the bones are actually breast cancer cells. The disease is metastatic breast cancer, not bone 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.

Stage III

Stage III is divided into stage IIIa and stage IIIb.

In stage IIIa, cancer has spread to one lymph node in the groin. Cancer has also spread:

  • to connective tissue just under the skin of the penis. Also, cancer may have 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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