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What is urethral cancer?

Urethral cancer is a rare urological cancer that is more difficult to detect until it reaches the advanced stage. The urethra is a hollow tube that carries urine out of the body, from the bladder. In men, the urethra runs from the bladder and goes through the prostate to the end of the penis. In women, the urethra is much shorter than in men and ends just above the vaginal opening.

What are the types of Urethral cancer?

There are three types of urethral cancers:

  • Squamous cell carcinoma is the most common type of urethral cancer. In women, it occurs in the part of the urethra close to the bladder. In men, it occurs in the lining of the urethra in the penis in men.
  • Transitional cell carcinoma occurs near the opening of the urethra in women. In men, it occurs in the lining of the tube that passes through the prostate.
  • Adenocarcinoma grows in the glands around the urethra.

What are the symptoms?

Usually, no signs are seen in the early stages. As cancer grows, the symptoms of urethral cancer start appearing. Common signs and symptoms of urethral cancer include:

  • A lump or growth near or on the urethra.
  • Blood in your urine
  • Trouble, pain, and inconsistency in urine
  • Enlarged lymph nodes in the groin, near the tumour
  • Discharge or bleeding from the urethra
  • A lump or bulging alongside the area of the penis or in the area between your genitals and anus.

What are the causes?

While the exact cause remains unknown, It typically occurs when cells on the inside lining of the ureter start multiplying rapidly. This abnormal growth of cells starts due to a change in DNA pattern. The growing cells block the ureter or invade other areas of the body. The human papilloma virus (HPV) can increase urethral cancer growth.

What are the risk factors?

  • Age: People above the age of 60 years are at higher risk of developing cancer.
  • Long-lasting chronic inflammation and infection of the urinary tract more likely develop urethral cancer.
  • Human papillomavirus (HPV) infection is also a kind of STD infection that is closely associated with urethral cancer.
  • A previous history of bladder or kidney cancer increases the risk
  • Family history of cancer and hereditary disease of the urinary tract can inherit the cancer syndromes too.
  • Smoking tobacco increases the risk of ureteral cancer along with urinary tract cancers, kidney cancer, and bladder cancer.

How is it diagnosed?

  • Blood and Urine tests are done to diagnose the number of red blood cells, blood in urine, and any infection in the blood.
  • A cystoscope is used to see the inside of the bladder and urethra to detect any blockage. It is a small tube with a lens and a light that sends inside images and helps in detecting any signs of tumour.
  • A tissue biopsy is used to learn about the tumour. A biopsy is needed to confirm cancer.
  • Ultrasound and imaging tests such as CT scan and MRI detect the spread of cancer to other parts of the body

What are the treatment options?

The treatment choices depend on the type of urethral cancer, stage of cancer, gender, age, test results, etc. There are many potential treatments available to cure urethral cancer.


Urethral cancer can be treated by surgical removal of urethra & the bladder. If lymph nodes are impacted by cancer, it is often removed in the pelvis. If cancer has not affected the nearby tissue, a tumour can be removed with a cystoscope.


These anti-cancer drugs can be used to shrink the tumor and decrease the growth of the cancer cells. It can be used prior to surgery or after surgery to kill the remaining cancer cells. Chemotherapy is most often used when cancer has spread to other parts of the body and surgery is risky.

Radiation Therapy

Radiation therapy targets and destroys cancer cells. Radiation therapy is generally not recommended if the affected area is small. In such cases, surgery or chemotherapy may advised. Further, radiation may also have certain side effects such as bladder pain, bleeding, incontinence, and pain among others.


Kokilaben Dhirubhai Ambani Hospital

Address: Rao Saheb, Achutrao Patwardhan Marg, Four Bungalows, Andheri West, Mumbai, Maharashtra 400053

Phone: +91-98 88 66 22 00

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