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Urethral cancer treatment and diagnosis

The urethra takes urine from the bladder to outside your body. Cancer that begins in the urethra is very rare but becomes more likely as you get older. It can spread quickly to other areas of the body.

Urethral cancer treatment at GenesisCare

What is urethral cancer?

The most common kind of urethral cancer is called squamous cell carcinoma. It develops near the bladder in women and the lining of the urethra inside the penis in men. Other types include:

  • Adenocarcinocama: develops near the glands around the urethra in men and women
  • Transitional cell rcinoma: develops near the opening of the urethra in women and near the prostate gland in men

Causes of urethral cancer

  • No one knows precisely what causes urethral cancer. Risk factors include:
  • Being over 60, white and female
  • Frequent urinary tract infections (UTIs)
  • Having had bladder cancer
  • Have a common sexually transmitted virus known as human papillomavirus (HPV)
  • Previous radiation therapy (men)
  • Previous sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) that have led to inflammation of the urethra

Signs and symptoms

What are the symptoms of urethral cancer?

There may be no signs at first. As time goes on, symptoms can include:

  • A lump in the groin
  • A lump or hard mass in your genital tract (advanced cancer)
  • Blood in your urine (haematuria)
  • Frequent need to urinate, espically at night
  • Incontinence
  • Trouble starting to urinate
  • Weak or interrupted flow of urine

Having one or more of these signs doesn’t mean you have cancer but it’s best to ask your doctor for advice. The sooner your cancer is detected, the better the chances of treating it successfully.

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Diagnosis

Your doctor will discuss your symptoms and may feel your abdomen. You may also have a vaginal or rectal examination. They may arrange for you to see a specialist for more tests.

These may include:

  • Biopsy to remove some cells for further analysis
  • Cystoscopy– a camera test to look inside the bladder and take biopsies from the bladder wall
  • Scans including CT chest/abdomen/pelvis and MRI abdomen/pelvis
  • Urine tests to look for blood and cancer cells in the urine
  • Uteroscopy to look inside the ureter. A tiny sample of tissue may be taken for analysis (biopsy)

Treatment

Urethral cancer is difficult to treat due to its location. Treatments may include surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy depending on how advanced the tumour is.

Radiotherapy

Radiotherapy kills cancer cells. It’s used in the early stages of cancer treatment or after it has started to spread. It can also be used to relieve pain and discomfort from cancer that has spread.

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Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy is medication that treats your cancer. The drugs kill cancer cells, preventing them from dividing and spreading further.

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