Management of the lymph nodes in penile cancer

Urology. 2010 Aug;76(2 Suppl 1):S43-57. doi: 10.1016/j.urology.2010.03.001.


A comprehensive literature study was conducted to evaluate the levels of evidence (LEs) in publications on the diagnosis and staging of penile cancer. Recommendations from the available evidence were formulated and discussed by the full panel of the International Consultation on Penile Cancer in November 2008. The final grades of recommendation (GRs) were assigned according to the LE of the relevant publications. The following consensus recommendations were accepted. Fine needle aspiration cytology should be performed in all patients (with ultrasound guidance in those with nonpalpable nodes). If the findings are positive, therapeutic, rather than diagnostic, inguinal lymph node dissection (ILND) can be performed (GR B). Antibiotic treatment for 3-6 weeks before ILND in patients with palpable inguinal nodes is not recommended (GR B). Abdominopelvic computed tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) are not useful in patients with nonpalpable nodes. However, they can be used in those with large, palpable inguinal nodes (GR B). The statistical probability of inguinal micrometastases can be estimated using risk group stratification or a risk calculation nomogram (GR B). Surveillance is recommended if the nomogram probability of positive nodes is <0.1 (10%). Surveillance is also recommended if the primary lesion is grade 1, pTis, pTa (verrucous carcinoma), or pT1, with no lymphovascular invasion, and clinically nonpalpable inguinal nodes, but only provided the patient is willing to comply with regular follow-up (GR B). In the presence of factors that impede reliable surveillance (obesity, previous inguinal surgery, or radiotherapy) prophylactic ILND might be a preferable option (GR C). In the intermediate-risk group (nomogram probability .1-.5 [10%-50%] or primary tumor grade 1-2, T1-T2, cN0, no lymphovascular invasion), surveillance is acceptable, provided the patient is informed of the risks and is willing and able to comply. If not, sentinel node biopsy (SNB) or limited (modified) ILND should be performed (GR B). In the high-risk group (nomogram probability >.5 [50%] or primary tumor grade 2-3 or T2-T4 or cN1-N2, or with lymphovascular invasion), bilateral ILND should be performed (GR B). ILND can be performed at the same time as penectomy, instead of 2-6 weeks later (GR C). SNB based on the anatomic position can be performed, provided the patient is willing to accept the potential false-negative rate of </=25% (GR C). Dynamic SNB with lymphoscintigraphic and blue dye localization can be performed if the technology and expertise are available (GR C). Limited ILND can be performed instead of complete ILND to reduce the complication rate, although the false-negative rate might be similar to that of anatomic SNB (GR C). Frozen section histologic examination can be used during SNB or limited ILND. If the results are positive, complete ILND can be performed immediately (GR C). In patients with cytologically or histologically proven inguinal metastases, complete ILND should be performed ipsilaterally (GR B). In patients with histologically confirmed inguinal metastases involving >/=2 nodes on one side, contralateral limited ILND with frozen section analysis can be performed, with complete ILND if the frozen section analysis findings are positive (GR B). If clinically suspicious inguinal metastases develop during surveillance, complete ILND should be performed on that side only (GR B), and SNB or limited ILND with frozen section analysis on the contralateral side can be considered (GR C). Endoscopic ILND requires additional study to determine the complication and long-term survival rates (GR C). Pelvic lymph node dissection is recommended if >/=2 proven inguinal metastases, grade 3 tumor in the lymph nodes, extranodal extension (ENE), or large (2-4 cm) inguinal nodes are present, or if the femoral (Cloquet's) node is involved (GR C). Performing ILND before pelvic lymph node dissection is preferable, because pelvic lymph node dissection can be avoided in patients with minimal inguinal metastases, thus avoiding the greater risk of chronic lymphedema (GR B). In patients with numerous or large inguinal metastases, CT or MRI should be performed. If grossly enlarged iliac nodes are present, neoadjuvant chemotherapy should be given and the response assessed before proceeding with pelvic lymph node dissection (GR C). Antibiotic treatment should be started before surgery to minimize the risk of wound infection (GR C). Perioperative low-dose heparin to prevent thromboembolic complications can be used, although it might increase lymph leakage (GR C). The skin incision for ILND should be parallel to the inguinal ligament, and sufficient subcutaneous tissue should be preserved to minimize the risk of skin flap necrosis (GR B). Sartorius muscle transposition to cover the femoral vessels can be used in radical ILND (GR C). Closed suction drainage can be used after ILND to prevent fluid accumulation and wound breakdown (GR B). Early mobilization after ILND is recommended, unless a myocutaneous flap has been used (GR B). Elastic stockings or sequential compression devices are advisable to minimize the risk of lymphedema and thromboembolism (GR C). Radiotherapy to the inguinal areas is not recommended in patients without cytologically or histologically proven metastases nor in those with micrometastases, but it can be considered for bulky metastases as neoadjuvant therapy to surgery (GR B). Adjuvant radiotherapy after complete ILND can be considered in patients with multiple or large inguinal metastases or ENE (GR C). Adjuvant chemotherapy after complete ILND can be used instead of radiotherapy in patients with >/=2 inguinal metastases, large nodes, ENE, or pelvic metastases (GR C). Follow-up should be individualized according to the histopathologic features and the management chosen for the primary tumor and inguinal nodes (GR B).

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Combined Modality Therapy
  • Consensus*
  • Humans
  • Lymph Node Excision / methods
  • Lymphatic Metastasis
  • Male
  • Penile Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Penile Neoplasms / radiotherapy
  • Penile Neoplasms / surgery
  • Penile Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Population Surveillance
  • Sentinel Lymph Node Biopsy
  • Urologic Surgical Procedures, Male / methods