Urethral cancer (patient information)

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Urethral cancer


What are the symptoms?

What are the causes?

Who is at highest risk?

When to seek urgent medical care?


Treatment options

Where to find medical care for Urethral cancer?

What to expect (Outlook/Prognosis)?

Possible complications


Urethral cancer On the Web

Ongoing Trials at Clinical Trials.gov

Images of Urethral cancer

Videos on Urethral cancer

FDA on Urethral cancer

CDC on Urethral cancer

Urethral cancer in the news

Blogs on Urethral cancer

Directions to Hospitals Treating Urethral cancer

Risk calculators and risk factors for Urethral cancer

Editor-In-Chief: C. Michael Gibson, M.S., M.D. [1]; Associate Editor(s)-in-Chief: Shanshan Cen, M.D. [2]Vindhya BellamKonda, M.B.B.S [3]


Urethral cancer is a rare cancer that occurs more often in men than in women. There are three types of urethral cancer. Squamous cell carcinoma is the most common type. It forms in the flat cells that line the urethra. Transitional cell carcinoma forms in cells near the urethral opening in women and in the part of the urethra that goes through the prostate gland in men. These cells change shape and stretch as urine passes out of the body. Adenocarcinoma forms in the glands near the urethra. These glands make and release mucus and other fluids.

Urethral cancer can metastasize (spread) quickly to tissues around the urethra and has often spread to nearby lymph nodes by the time it is diagnosed. Signs of urethral cancer include bleeding or trouble urinating.

What are the symptoms of Urethral cancer?

Signs of urethral cancer include bleeding or trouble with urination.

These and other signs and symptoms may be caused by urethral cancer or by other conditions. There may be no signs or symptoms in the early stages. Check with your doctor if you have any of the following:

Who is at highest risk?

Anything that increases your chance of getting a disease is called a risk factor. Having a risk factor does not mean that you will get cancer; not having risk factors doesn’t mean that you will not get cancer. Talk with your doctor if you think you may be at risk. Risk factors for urethral cancer include the following:


Tests that examine the urethra and bladder are used to detect (find) and diagnose urethral cancer.

The following tests and procedures may be used:

  • CT scan (CAT scan): A procedure that makes a series of detailed pictures of areas inside the body, such as the pelvis and abdomen, taken from different angles. The pictures are made by a computer linked to an x-ray machine. A dye may be injected into a vein or swallowed to help the organs or tissues show up more clearly. This procedure is also called computed tomography, computerized tomography, or computerized axial tomography.
  • Ureteroscopy : A procedure to look inside the ureter and renal pelvis to check for abnormal areas. A ureteroscope is a thin, tube-like instrument with a light and a lens for viewing. The ureteroscope is inserted through the urethra into the bladder, ureter, and renal pelvis. A tool may be inserted through the ureteroscope to take tissue samples to be checked under a microscope for signs of disease.

Treatment options

There are different types of treatment for patients with urethral cancer. Four types of standard treatment are used:

What to expect (Outlook/Prognosis)?

The prognosis of urethral cancer depends on the following factors:

Superficial tumors located in the distal urethra of both the female and male are generally curable. However, deeply invasive lesions are rarely curable by any combination of therapies. In men, the prognosis of tumors in the distal (pendulous) urethra is better than for tumors of the proximal (bulbomembranous) and prostatic urethra, which tend to present at more advanced stages. Likewise, distal urethral tumors tend to occur at earlier stages in women, and they appear to have a better prognosis than proximal tumors.