Penile Cancer

Recovery from penile cancer surgery

Men who have had surgery for penile cancer will usually be fitted with a urinary catheter during their operation, which will stay in place for a few days and allow them to urinate into a bag (see ‘Using the toilet after penile cancer surgery’). Most had the catheter removed before they went home and had to prove that they could urinate unaided before they were discharged, though a few went home with their catheter in place. Those who had an operation to remove lymph nodes had a tube inserted on one or both sides of the groin to drain lymphatic fluid into a bag. Again, these were removed after a few days or weeks (see ‘Lymphoedema & the impact of lymph node removal’).
After their operation, the men were visited by the surgeon to tell them how the operation had gone. Dressings and stitches or staples were usually removed after a few days; Jordan said his fell out after two days. Some men were allowed to shower the day after surgery whereas others had to wait a few days. Looking at the operation scar for the first time could be nerve racking and some men were shocked at the results while others were less concerned about how their penis looked.
The amount of pain experienced after the surgery, called ‘post-operative pain’, will depend on the extent of the surgery. While some men said they had no pain, others mentioned discomfort or soreness rather than pain, and others needed pain relief medication. Any pain usually disappeared after a few days. Some men were given a pain reliever called ‘morphine’ or ‘diamorphine’ in a machine that they controlled. This is often called a ‘patient controlled analgesia (PCA) pump’, which allows the patient to administer safe doses when they feel the need for pain relief.
Some men experienced complications after surgery. For instance, Mark had difficulties urinating after his penectomy; this was investigated and corrected during a later operation to remove lymph nodes. After having lymph nodes removed, the wounds in Peter’s groin wouldn't heal and were leaking fluid, so he had another operation to remove scar tissue that was causing the problem. Some men developed infections requiring treatment with antibiotics.

Last reviewed July 2017.
Last updated January 2015.


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