Urethral cancer is among the rarest type of urological cancer. This cancer is more common in men. In some cases, the cancer does not display any symptoms. As the cancer grows it may be noticeable as a lump on the urethra. More commonly it is found on evaluation for blood in the urine or surveillance for bladder cancer.
The cancerous growth can block the urethra. That may lead to symptoms that are commonly seen in other urological conditions. Signs of urethral cancer can include:
- Blood in the urine
- Bleeding from the urethra
- Frequent urination
- Urgency to urinate
- Difficulty urinating
- Enlarged lymph nodes in the groin
- A growth in the urethra
Urethral cancer often evades early diagnosis due to the lack of symptoms in its early stages. Even when symptoms begin to appear, they are common to a wide range of conditions.
Patients with urethral cancer often undergo treatment for urinary tract infection or other conditions before diagnosis. Testing for urethral cancer can include urine tests, blood tests, and imaging tests like ultrasounds or CT scans.
Cystourethroscopy may be required, where the doctor passes a scope through the urethra to examine it. This can reveal cancerous growths, and a tissue sample or biopsy is obtained to confirm the diagnosis.
Treatment will vary depending on the stage and type of urethral cancer, along with many other considerations for individual patients. The physician may prescribe treatment to remove or control the cancer. If bladder cancer is found at the same time, the presence of urethral cancer will influence the overall treatment recommendations.
Surgery is the most common treatment. Several different types of urethral cancer surgeries can be appropriate for specific patients. Superficial tumors can be removed through surgery if the cancer has not spread.
In the posterior urethra (closer to the prostate and bladder), tumors may require more extensive surgery. In men, the tumor may occur within the portion of the urethra that runs through the penis and requires partial or entire removal of the penis in severe cases.
Other treatments can include radiation therapy, chemotherapy, or a combination of the two, possibly with surgery. Treatment plans for urethral cancer is highly individualized.