• Cancer of the penis;
  • quality of life;
  • follow-up

Objectives To study the long-term psychosocial wellbeing of patients following successful physical treatment for cancer of the penis.

Patients and methods Thirty patients (median age at follow-up 57 years, range 28–75) were followed up for a median of 80 months after treatment for penile cancer (local excision/laser beam treatment, 5; radiotherapy, 12; partial penectomy, 9; total penectomy, 4). They underwent a semi-structured interview and completed the Impact of Events Scale, General Health Questionnaire and the EORTC QLQ C-30 questionnaire. Global scales for measuring sexual function, subjective well-being and social activity were constructed and found reliable and valid.

Results There was a strong correlation between the well-being scale and the EORTC scales for overall quality of life and psychological distress. Patients treated with partial or total penectomy had a worse outcome with regard to sexual function than patients treated conservatively, but there was no difference in the other domains of quality of life, indicating that even the more radically treated patients usually adapted adequately. Half of the individuals had mental symptoms at follow-up, and these patients were less satisfied and showed less social activity. Seven men reported that, if asked again, they would choose treatment with lower long-term survival to increase the chance of remaining sexually potent, but the majority gave priority to higher long-term survival.

Conclusion Before treatment of penile cancer, physicians should thoroughly discuss the expected outcome and consequences of the different treatment options with the patient. Psychosocial treatment might be helpful for patients with mental symptoms.