Urethral Cancer

Urethral cancer facts*

*Urethral cancer facts by

  • Urethral cancer is a disease in which malignant (cancer) cells form in the tissues of the urethra, the tube that carries urine from the bladder to outside the body. It is a rare cancer that occurs more often in women than in men.
  • Squamous cell carcinoma is the most common type of urethral cancer. Other types of urethral cancer include transitional cell carcinoma and adenocarcinoma.
  • Risk factors for urethral cancer include having a history of bladder cancer, sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), frequent urinary tract infections (UTIs), being 60 or older, and being a white female.
  • Symptoms of urethral cancer include bleeding from the urethra or blood in the urine, weak or interrupted ("stop-and-go") flow of urine, frequent urination, a lump or thickness in the perineum or penis, discharge from the urethra, and enlarged lymph nodes in the groin area.
  • Tests to diagnose urethral cancer include blood and urine tests, tissue sample biopsies, pelvic and rectal exams, and cystoscopy.
  • Treatments for urethral cancer include surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy.
  • The prognosis depends on the stage and size of the cancer, where in the urethra the cancer first formed, the patient's general health, and whether the cancer has just been diagnosed or has recurred.

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.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 4/18/2014

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