OBJECTIVE: In patients with penile squamous cell carcinomas (SCCs), lymphadenectomy can be curative and should be considered in cases deemed high risk for metastatic spread to regional lymph nodes. Management of patients without palpable lymphadenopathy remains controversial. Current guidelines for T1 penile SCCs based on previous studies have suggested that moderately differentiated tumors are at low risk for metastatic disease; however given our experience with such patients we sought to examine whether such tumors were truly observable or should be treated more aggressively.
MATERIALS AND METHODS: A retrospective chart review of penile cancer cases at three institutions was performed. All slides of patients diagnosed with T1 lesions were rereviewed by our reference pathologists to confirm the original diagnosis and stage. These patients were also reviewed regarding lymphadenectomy results and clinical outcomes.
RESULTS: Between 1988 and 2004, a total of 34 cases of SCC of the penis were identified, of which 10 were stage T1. Of these 10 cases, seven had moderately differentiated carcinoma without vascular invasion on pathological evaluation. Metastatic disease was present in one patient at the time of diagnosis and subsequently developed in three of the remaining six patients during follow up. Thus a total of 4 (57%) of the patients developed metastatic disease.
CONCLUSIONS: Current management protocols place moderately differentiated T1 penile squamous carcinoma without vascular invasion in a low risk category for metastatic disease. As such, expectant management is currently offered as a primary option for these patients. Our experience suggests that patients in this category are in fact at higher risk for metastatic disease, and may be offered early groin dissection in place of expectant management.