Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Penile Cancer: Carcinoma in situ

Carcinoma in situ (CIS) of the penis refers to a squamous cell cancer limited to the most superficial layers of the penile skin. This cancer is also known as Erythroplasia of Queyrat if on the glans (head) of the penis or Bowen Disease if on the shaft of the penis and was covered in a previous blog. While CIS is technically a non-invasive cancer and believed to have low metastatic potential, it has features of high-grade (potentially aggressive) cancer that warrants careful management.


CIS was inititally described by Queyrat in 1911 as a red, velvety, well-marginated lesion of the glans penis or prepuce (of uncircumcised men). Bowen described a similar lesion of the penile skin in 1912. The original description of Bowen disease related to subsequent internal malignancy, however subsequent studies have demonstrated that this relationship was nothing more than coincidence.[1]


Presentation and Prognosis

CIS has a similar clinical presentation whether on the glans penis or shaft. As described above, CIS can appear as a red, velvety, well-marginated lesion on the penis. Alternatively the lesion can be scaly, crusted or ulcerated – similar in appearance to eczema or psoriasis. Development of metastasis for CIS is incredibly rare – however 10-33% of CIS on the glans and 5% of CIS on the shaft can progress to more invasive, dangerous disease.[2,3]



As CIS rarely metastasizes, treatment is focused on (1) confirmation of a non-invasive lesion, (2) resection of lesions with an adequate microscopic margin and (3) penis-sparing techniques if the lesion is on the glans. Confirmation of non-invasive malignancy may require multiple biopsies or complete excision of the area of concern. A 5mm margin if often adequate for lesions on the shaft, while circumcision will cure most cases of CIS on the prepuce. Lymph node dissection is only performed in cases suspicious for invasion or enlarged lymph nodes.

Penis-sparing treatments

Lesions of the glans penis can be difficult to treat surgically without distorting normal penile anatomy or sensation. A number of topical treatments including 5-fluorouracil, 5% imiquimod, laser ablation (YAG or KTP lasers) and radiation therapy have all been used with success.[4-10] For patients with large tumors or lesions refractory to topical treatment, local skin excision can be performed with skin grafting as needed.

Penile lesion (CIS) completely excised (left) and with a skin graft using non-hair bearing skin of the groin (right).

For patients with CIS involving the glans, partial or complete excision with partial or complete resurfacing can be performed.[11,12]

A. CIS on the glans penis, B. Glanular skin removed, C. Skin graft placed on the glans, D. Final, cosmetically pleasant result.  From Palminteri etal. [12]

These penile surgeries often involve a multidisciplinary approach including a urologic oncologist, plastic (reconstructive) surgeon and excellent pathologists to ensure eradication of the disease.  Penile cancer is a rare disease and balancing the risks of cancer with penile reconstruction and function is best done at a center with experience treating this disease.

  1. Anderson SL, Nielson A, and Reymann F: Relationship between Bowen disease and internal malignant tumors. Arch Dermatol 1973; 108: pp. 367.
  2. Buechner SA: Common skin disorders of the penis. BJU Int 2002; 90: pp. 498-506.
  3. Bleeker MCG, Heideman DAM, Snijders PJF, et al: Penile cancer: epidemiology, pathogenesis, and prevention. World J Urol 2009; 27: pp. 141-150.
  4. Harrington KJ, Price PM, Fry L, Witherow RO. Erythroplasia of Queyrat treated with isotretinoin. Lancet. Oct 16 1993;342(8877):994-5. 
  5. Micali G, Nasca MR, De Pasquale R. Erythroplasia of Queyrat treated with imiquimod 5% cream. J Am Acad Dermatol. Nov 2006;55(5):901-3. 
  6. Conejo-Mir JS, Munoz MA, Linares M, Rodriguez L, Serrano A. Carbon dioxide laser treatment of erythroplasia of Queyrat: a revisited treatment to this condition. J Eur Acad Dermatol Venereol. Sep 2005;19(5):643-4. 
  7. Arlette JP. Treatment of Bowen's disease and erythroplasia of Queyrat. Br J Dermatol. Nov 2003;149 Suppl 66:43-9. 
  8. Orengo I, Rosen T, Guill CK. Treatment of squamous cell carcinoma in situ of the penis with 5% imiquimod cream: a case report. J Am Acad Dermatol. Oct 2002;47(4 Suppl):S225-8. 
  9. Micali G, Lacarrubba F, Dinotta F, Massimino D, Nasca MR. Treating skin cancer with topical cream. Expert Opin Pharmacother. Jun 2010;11(9):1515-27. 
  10. Grabstald H, and Kelley CD: Radiation therapy of penile cancer. Urology 1980; 15: pp. 575-576.
  11. Pompeo AC, Zequi Sde C, Pompeo AS. Penile cancer: organ-sparing surgery. Curr Opin Urol. 2015 Mar;25(2):121-8. doi: 10.1097/MOU.0000000000000149.
  12. Palminteri E, Berdondini E, Lazzeri M, Mirri F, Barbagli G. Resurfacing and reconstruction of the glans penis. Eur Urol. 2007 Sep;52(3):893-8. Epub 2007 Jan 22.


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