Penile Cancer

Messages to professionals

Men will commonly be given a diagnosis of penile cancer by a consultant at a specialist cancer centre although their first point of contact will usually be their General Practitioner (GP). Diagnosis will usually come after the consultant has performed diagnostic tests, such as a biopsy or scan. Hearing that you have penile cancer can be extremely traumatic, and patients may experience a range of emotions (see ‘Hearing the diagnosis’). The way that a diagnosis is revealed can have a huge impact on a person. The challenge for professionals is to deliver the diagnosis in a way which will leave the individual patient feeling as equipped as possible to cope with the consequences of that diagnosis.
All of the men interviewed were cared for under the National Health Service (NHS) in one of the specialist centres across the UK. The majority of the men we spoke to were extremely happy with the standard of care that they had received.
There were however, a number of men who felt that aspects of their care could have been improved. Several men talked about the need for a greater awareness of the signs and symptoms of penile cancer, particularly amongst primary health care professionals such as GPs. Some men called for better education and training of medical professionals in order to improve understanding of the signs and symptoms of penile cancer.
Men also talked about the need for improvements to be made in how medical professionals revealed the diagnosis of penile cancer to their patients. Some men felt that a diagnosis was revealed without sufficient sensitivity and consideration of the impact which this diagnosis would have on a patient’s wellbeing, particularly where the diagnosis was delivered by someone who was not a penile cancer specialist. However, others felt dissatisfied if they had to wait until they saw a specialist before being told their diagnosis.
Others felt that medical professionals did not always equip men to deal with the consequences of a penile cancer diagnosis or provide men with adequate support once a diagnosis had been revealed, such as somebody to talk to who would listen to their concerns. One man felt it important that a third party such as a friend or family member should be present at the diagnosis to provide support.
The men we interviewed varied in how they wanted to hear the diagnosis. Some men felt their diagnosis could have been delivered with greater sensitivity. Others felt that an honest and frank delivery of the diagnosis was an important aspect of the service provided and recommended that this should be practised by all health professionals.
Although many men were given information about their cancer and subsequent treatments they were to receive (see ‘Professional support for penile cancer’), a number felt that their care could have been improved by the provision of more information. In some cases, the men felt that they would have benefited from information on how to cope with the implication of their diagnosis and treatment.
Although not a key theme across interviews, the wife of one man felt that the care pathway for penile cancer could be improved. She was able to draw upon her experience of treatment for breast cancer and recommended that health professionals should follow the standard treatment protocol when managing men who have been diagnosed with penile cancer.
Furthermore, one man would have liked advice from his consultant about anything he could do himself to slow the progress of his condition or prevent a recurrence.

Last reviewed July 2017.


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