Urethral Cancer

Urethral cancer is a disease in which malignant (cancer) cells form in the tissues of the urethra.

The urethra is the tube that carries urine from the bladder to outside the body. In women, the urethra is about 1½ inches long and is just above the vagina. In men, the urethra is about 8 inches long and goes through the prostate gland and the penis to the outside of the body. In men, the urethra also carries semen.

There are different types of urethral cancer that begin in cells that line the urethra.

  • Squamous cell carcinoma is the most common type of urethral cancer. It forms in the thin, flat cells in the part of the urethra near the bladder in women, and in the lining of the urethra in the penis in men.
  • Transitional cell carcinoma forms in the area near the urethral opening in women, and in the part of the urethra that goes through the prostate gland in men.
  • Adenocarcinoma forms in the glands that are around the urethra in both men and women.

The signs and symptoms of cavities vary, depending on their extent and location. When a cavity is at its initial stage or just involving the enamel, you may not have any symptoms at all. As the decay gets larger, it may cause signs and symptoms such as:

  • History of bladder cancer
  • Having conditions that cause chronic inflammation in the urethra, including:
  • Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), including human papillomavirus (HPV), especially HPV type 16.
  • Frequent urinary tract infections (UTIs).
  • Bleeding from meatus
  • Trouble starting the flow of urine.
  • Weak or interrupted ("stop-and-go") flow of urine.
  • Frequent urination, especially at night.
  • Discharge from the urethra.
  • Bleeding from the urethra or blood in the urine.
  • A lump or thickness in the penis.
  • A painless lump or swelling in the groin.

How is it diagnosed?

The following tests and procedures may be used:
  • Physical exam and health history: An exam of the body to check general signs of health, including checking for signs of disease, such as lumps or anything else that seems unusual. A history of the patient's health habits and past illnesses and treatments will also be taken.
  • Digital rectal exam: An exam of the rectum. The doctor or nurse inserts a lubricated, gloved finger into the lower part of the rectum to feel for lumps or anything else that seems unusual.
  • Urine cytology: A laboratory test in which a sample of urine is checked under a microscope for abnormal cells.
  • Urinalysis: A test to check the color of urine and its contents, such as sugar, protein, blood, and white blood cells. If white blood cells (a sign of infection) are found, a urine culture is usually done to find out what type of infection it is.
  • Blood chemistry studies
  • 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.
  • Ureteroscopy: A procedure to look inside the ureter. and renal pelvis to check for abnormal areas. 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.
Urethral Cancer

How is it treated?

There are different types of treatment for patients with urethral cancer. Four types of standard treatment are used:
  • Surgery
  • Radiation therapy
  • Chemotherapy
  • Active surveillance

Surgery to remove the cancer is the most common treatment for cancer of the urethra. One of the following types of surgery may be done:

Removal of the cancer by surgery.

Surgery to remove the cancer using a special tool inserted into the urethra.

Surgery to remove the cancer by electric current. A lighted tool with a small wire loop on the end is used to remove the cancer or to burn the tumor away with high-energy electricity.

A surgical procedure that uses a laser beam (a narrow beam of intense light) as a knife to make bloodless cuts in tissue or to remove or destroy tissue.

Lymph nodes in the pelvis and groin may be removed.

Surgery to remove the bladder and the urethra.

Surgery to remove the bladder and the prostate.

Surgery to remove the part of the penis surrounding the urethra where cancer has spread. Plastic surgery may be done to rebuild the penis.

Surgery to remove the entire penis. Plastic surgery may be done to rebuild the penis.

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