Urethral cancer classification

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Editor-In-Chief: C. Michael Gibson, M.S., M.D. [1]


Urethral cancer may be classified according to cell types into 3 subtypes: transitional cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and adenocarcinoma. It may also be classified into distal urethral cancer, proximal urethral cancer and urethral cancer associated with invasive bladder cancer.


Based on histology

In an analysis of Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results data from 1973 to 2002, the most common histologic types of urethral cancer were:

Other cell types, such as melanoma, were extremely rare.

Based on location

Distal Urethral Cancer [1]

These lesions are often superficial.

  • Female: Lesions of the distal third of the urethra
  • Male: Anterior, or penile, portion of the urethra, including the meatus and pendulous urethra

Proximal Urethral Cancer

These lesions are often deeply invasive.

  • Female: Lesions not clearly limited to the distal third of the urethra
  • Male: Bulbomembranous and prostatic urethra

Urethral Cancer Associated with Invasive Bladder Cancer

Approximately 5% to 10% of men with cystectomy for bladder cancer may have or may develop urethral cancer distal to the urogenital diaphragm.


  1. National Cancer Institute. Physician Data Query Database 2015. http://www.cancer.gov/publications/pdq