Penile Cancer

Feelings and emotions

Having arrived at the point of treatment, men will probably have already experienced a mix of feelings and emotions (see ‘Hearing the diagnosis). This mix of emotions may continue in the lead up to the treatment and throughout its course. For some, the experience is hard to take in, especially if they have not had long to come to terms with their diagnosis. Men may feel confused or numb. Fear, anger and guilt are also common and uncertainty or confusion about what is happening can intensify these emotions. If men have not heard about penile cancer before, they may feel like they are alone in experiencing the illness, which can lead to a feeling of isolation.
Sharing thoughts and feelings with others is often the best way to cope with complex emotions (see ‘The support of others). Friends and family may also be experiencing deep emotions and sharing these can be beneficial for both parties. Some men may prefer not to talk to people close to them. Others may find it easier to speak to someone else such as a specialist nurse or counsellor (see ‘Professional support for penile cancer) or may choose to talk to fellow patients (see ‘Telling others).
Before having surgery, it is likely that men will experience a range of emotions. Of the men we spoke to, several talked about feeling nervous, anxious or scared during the lead up to their surgery and on the day of their operation.
Although some men felt anxious before their operation, many said they knew it was something that had to be done and they wanted it over with as soon as possible. Whilst Michael didn’t have any fears about surgery he simply wanted it to be over. Steve was happy to put his trust in the professionals treating him and that the best strategy was to stay calm. Having experienced previous operations, Tom felt the penile surgery was relatively simple and therefore he was not worried. Leading up to the operation, Tim was more excited than nervous, and said that in a strange way the new technologies and experiences made it quite fun. Frosty felt on edge a few days before his operation but he felt calm the night before. Having access to good information about what to expect and feeling prepared helped some men to cope with their emotions (see ‘Information on penile cancer). Others just wanted the doctors to go ahead and do what was needed.
After penile surgery, men may again experience a range of emotions. A number of men talked about feeling relieved that the operation was over and a few felt a sense of joy that they had survived the procedure. Les was ‘chuffed’ that cancer hadn’t killed him and although his penis looked different it was still functioning as it had done before his operation.
Whilst some men may feel a sense of interest in the results of the operation, others may experience a sense of fear and trepidation. Jim said that he felt no sadness, but was glad the operation was over and interested to see the results. John Z however was reluctant to have a look at his penis.
Seeing the results of surgery, even if men have been told what it is going to look like, can be shocking at first. Some men were surprised at how much had been taken away. When first seeing the results, David took the assumption that everything would be okay. Despite more being removed than he had expected, Steve decided he had to live with what he had and shouldn’t worry about it. For some, accepting the results of the surgery and looking at the positives was important.
A few men told us that they felt very shocked when they saw the results of their surgery. The levels of shock the men experienced differed considerably and may be linked to each man’s expectations about their surgery. Paul and Mark did not expect to have such drastic surgery and they felt very shocked and distressed when they first looked at their penis after their operation.

Last reviewed July 2017.


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