Types of Urethra Cancer
What is Urethra?
The tube that transports the urine from bladder to penis and then drives it out from the body is known as urethra.
The anatomical structure of urethra is different in males and females. The male urethra is around 15 to 20 cm long and performs the function of transporting both urinary as well as genital secretions such as semen. The female urethra is comparatively shorter then male urethra and is approximately 4 cm long, situated just above the vagina.
What is Urethra Cancer?
Cancer begins with uncontrollable growth of abnormal cells. This uncontrollable growth of cancer cells that occurs in the tissue of urethra is known as urethral carcinoma or cancer, as cancer that grows in the tissue lining are known as carcinoma. It is a rare type of cancer with a prevalence of only 1-2 percent.
Who is at the risk?
The malignancy occurs in both males and females however, it is more common among males and people over the age of 60 years. In addition, people with following risk factors are also at a higher risk of developing this type of cancer due to ongoing inflammation.
- Bladder cancer
- Recurrent UTI (urinary tract infection)
- Furthermore, it is also associated with human papillomavirus, exclusively HPV 16 strain
Types of Urethral Cancer:
There are three types of urethral carcinomas:
- Squamous cell carcinoma:
It is the most common type of urethral cancer. The pathophysiology revolves around uncontrollable growth of cancer cells in the urethral lining, close to female bladder. In males, it occurs along the penile lining.
- Transitional cell carcinoma:
It occurs in the vicinity of urethral opening in females and urethral lining that encircles the prostate in males.
It occurs in both males and females within the urethral glands.
What are the Classic Symptoms of Urethral Cancer?
In the initial stages there may not be any symptoms; however, with the passage of time, the symptoms worsen if no intervention is done. Most common sign of urethral cancer are as follows.
- Bleeding while passing urine.
- Discharge or bleeding from urethra.
- Difficulty in passing urine.
- Frequent urination particularly at night.
- Unable to control urine and intermittent urine flow.
- Lumps or swelling in the groin or penis area.
It can be diagnosed via following tests and procedures.
- History and physical exam:
Complete inspection of body to analyze any unusual signs or symptoms like any lump or swelling in the groin region. A complete history of patient is also taken to analyze his habits, any illness in the past or treatment.
Thorough pelvic exam and vaginal or cervix exam by inserting speculum is conducted to understand any signs of disease
- Digital rectal exam:
Rectal exam by inserting gloved finger containing lubricant to analyze any lump or any other unusual sign.
- Urine cytology:
It is a test conducted in the laboratory to analyze the urine samples under the microscope to look for abnormal cells.
Healthcare providers use cystoscope to analyze the inner tissue lining of urethra.
Your doctor would take a small tissue of urethra or bladder to examine it under the microscope to analyze if there is a cancerous mass.
If you are diagnosed with urethral cancer then your doctor may request other tests as well to analyze if the cancer has spread to other parts of the body like X-ray, CT scan or MRI of pelvis.
In the initial stage, your doctor may suggest chemotherapy and radiations in order to kill the cancer cells but if cancer is spreading or getting worse then surgery is needed to remove the affected parts of urethra and bladder.
If you have any questions or concerns regarding urethral cancer, don’t hesitate to schedule an appointment with Dr. Elist to get an evaluation.