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Urethral Cancer – Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

Urethral Cancer is a painful and potentially lethal condition in which a cancer originates from the urethra, mainly in the form of a urethral tumor, which is the tubular part of the excretory system of the human body which connects to the urinary bladder and discharges the urine from the body through the urethral canal.

Causes of Urethral Cancer

The occurrence of urethral cancer in any part of the body is not explained. Most probably the development of urethral cancer is associated with a chromosome problem that causes the appearance and growth of malignant cells also knows as urethral tumors. This could be caused as a result from exposure to certain carcinogenic agents, stimuli or substances which could cause urethral cancer and the symptoms of urethral cancer.

However, while discussing the causes of Urethral Cancer, it is important to know who are at risk of this disease and in what conditions cause urethral cancer. People who have been suffering from bladder pain and bladder cancer are more likely to develop Urethral Cancer and a urethral tumor than any other people. People who develop frequent inflammations of the urethra, those above the age of 60, especially white females, have a tendency to develop Urethral Cancer and urethral tumors than most other people.


The Symptoms of Urethral Cancer include the following.

· Frequent urination

· Blood in urine

· Bleeding in the urethra

· Discharge from urethra

· Lump in the perineum or penis

· Weak flow of urine

· Interrupted flow of urine


There are several tests that could be carried out for determining that a person is suffering from Urethral Cancer. First of all, the patient will be examined physically by the physician in which he or she will be examined for the apparent signs and symptoms of urethral cancer such as lumps or enlarged lymph nodes. Then, further tests and screenings will be prescribed to determine the presence of cancerous cells and urethral tumors. These tests include laboratory tests and examinations such as rectal and pelvic exams which are carried out for the signs of the disease.

Laboratory tests for the diagnosis of Urethral Cancer include Urinalysis and Urine Cytology, which respectively check for the nature of problem through the analysis of the properties and composition of urine and the presence of malicious cells respectively. Complete Blood Count test is also recommended to check for urethral cancer. Cystoscopy could be carried out which involves inserting a thin tube into the urethra and the urinary bladder to check for the presence of cancerous cells and urethral tumors. In most cases, a biopsy of the tissues will be taken for examination to confirm the presence of urethral cancer or urethral tumors.

Scans such as X-rays, MRI and CT scans are used to determine the size and staging of the present urethral cancer to prescribe proper treatment. The staging is determined according to the part of urethra that is affected by the urethra tumor. Anterior Urethral Cancer is not too advanced or deep, while the Posterior Urethral Cancer is deep rooted and in advanced stage. Anterior parts are closer to the body opening, while the posterior part of the urethra is next to the urinary bladder and in males, the prostate gland.

Treatment of Urethral Cancer

Once the presence of Urethral Cancer is determined, the appropriate treatment for the particular stage of the urethral cancer tumor is prescribed. There are various treatment options available for Urethral Cancer. The type of treatment depends on the stage of the urethral cancer and the damage done to the tissues around the urethra, especially when the urethral cancer has reached other organs like the urinary bladder.

Surgery is one of the most widely practiced treatments for Urethral Cancer and treating urethral tumors. There are quite a few surgery types used in this regard.

-Open Excision: Surgical removal of the urethra.

-Laser Surgery: Using laser beams for surgery and removing urethral cancer cells in the urethral cancer.

-Lymph Node Dissection: Removal of the lymph nodes in the groin area affected from the urethra cancer.

-Electro-resection: Using electric current for the removal or destruction of the urethral cancer cells.

-Cystourethectomy: Surgical removal of the urethra and urinary bladder affected by the urethral cancer.

-Radical penectomy: Surgical removal of the penis affected by the urethral cancer tumors.

Cystoprostatectomy: Surgical removal of the prostate and bladder affected by the urethral cancer in males.

Radiation therapy is another method of treatment in which X-rays of very high energy are used to destroy the urethral cancer cells. Alternatively, or combined with surgery

, chemotherapy is also administered to control the growth of the urethral cancer.

Urethral Cancer is a rare type of cancer which occurs more frequently in females ( Female Urethral Cancer ).

Urethral Cancer Treatment

Urethral Cancer Treatment – Treatment for Urethral Cancer

Treatment for urethral cancer depends on how far along the urethral cancer has gotten location of the disease, and the urethral cancer patient’s age, sex, and overall health. Urethral cancer treatment options include chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery. Because urethral cancer is often invasive, surgery for urethral cancer is the primary method of treatment. Chemotherapy and radiation are often used as adjuvant urethral cancer treatment therapies.

Surgery as Treatment for Urethral Cancer

Surgical urethral cancer treatment options depend on the stage and location of the urethral cancer. Surgery is usually performed under general anesthesia and is a pretty common form of urethral cancer treatment. Early urethral cancer is treated using fulguration (destruction of cancer cells using high-frequency electric current) and laser therapy (destruction of cancer cells using a narrow beam of intense light) for the treatment of urethral cancer.

Procedures performed for advanced cases include the following:

  • Removal of the bladder and urethra (cystourethrectomy)
  • Removal of part of the penis (partial penectomy)
  • Removal of the penis, urethra, and penile root (radical penectomy)
  • Removal of the bladder and prostate (cystoprostatectomy)
  • Removal of cancerous lymph nodes (lymph node dissection)
  • Removal of the bladder, urethra, and vagina (anterior exenteration)

If partial penectomy, radical penectomy, or anterior exenteration is required, additional surgical procedures are performed to reconstruct the reproductive organs left behind from advanced urethral cancer. If the bladder and urethra are removed, a urinary diversion is performed to allow for the passage of urine.

Complications of surgery include the following:

  • Adverse reaction to anesthesia
  • Bowel obstruction
  • Incontinence
  • Infection
  • Mortality (approximately 1–2% of cases)
  • Recurrence (in approximately 50% of cases)
  • Tissue death (necrosis)
  • Urethral narrowing (stricture) or abnormal passage (fistula)

Radiation as Treatment for Urethral Cancer

Radiation may be used along with surgery in advanced urethral cancer treatment, or as primary treatment for early urethral cancer that is noninvasive. Radiation uses high-energy rays from a machine outside the body (called external beam radiation) or surgically implanted radioactive seeds or pellets (called brachytherapy) to destroy the urethral cancer cells. External radiation and brachytherapy are sometimes used together as forms of urethral cancer treatments.

External beam radiation usually involves treatment 5 days a week for approximately 6 weeks on the area of the urethral cancer. Brachytherapy involves surgical implantation of the seeds, which become inactive over time and remain in place.

Side effects of radiation for urethral cancer treatments are caused by the destruction of healthy tissue and include the following:

  • Abnormal healing resulting in abnormal passage in the urethra (fistula)
  • Burning of the skin (similar to sunburn)
  • Diarrhea
  • Fatigue
  • Inflammation of the bladder (cystitis)
  • Narrowing of the urethra (stricture; causing urination difficulty)
  • Nausea

Chemotherapy as a form of Urethral Cancer Treatment

Chemotherapy involves using drugs to destroy urethral cancer cells. It is a systemic urethral cancer treatment (i.e., destroys urethral cancer cells throughout the body) that is administered orally or intravenously (through a vein; IV). Medications are often used in combination to destroy urethral cancer that has metastasized. Commonly used drugs include cisplatin (Platinol®), vincristine (Oncovin®), and methotrexate (Trexall®).

Side effects include the following:

  • Anemia (causing fatigue, weakness)
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Loss of appetite (anorexia)
  • Hair loss (alopecia)
  • Mouth sores
  • Increased risk for infection
  • Shortness of breath
  • Excessive bleeding and bruising

Urethral Cancer Treatment and Prognosis

Five-year survival rates for noninvasive urethral cancer treated surgically or with radiation are approximately 60%. Recurrence rates for invasive urethral cancer treated with surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation combined are higher than 50%. Early diagnosis and urethral cancer treatment offers the best chance for cure.