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.

Urethral cancer is a rare cancer that occurs more often in women than in men. There are different types of urethral cancer that begin in cells that line the urethra. These cancers are named for the types of cells that become malignant (cancerous):

  • Squamous cell carcinoma is the most common type of urethral cancer. It forms in 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 glands near the urethra in both men and women.

Urethral cancer can metastasize (spread) quickly to tissues around the urethra and is often found in nearby lymph nodes by the time it is diagnosed.

Age and a history of bladder cancer can affect the risk of developing urethral cancer.

Risk factors include the following:

  • Having a history of bladder cancer.
  • Having conditions that cause chronic inflammation in the urethra, including:
  • Being 60 or older.
  • Being a white female.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 4/9/2014

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