Urethral cancer is a type of cancer that causes the tissue cells of the urethra to become malignant (cancerous) and grows abnormally, often forming a hard mass (tumor). The urethra is a passageway for the transfer of urine from the bladder to the vaginal opening.
Urethral cancer is found more commonly in men than in women and is a common form of cancer worldwide.
A cancerous growth (tumor) in the urethra may cause the inner diameter of the urethra to get narrowed, or even completely blocked, which results in blockage of the urine or difficulty while passing urine and other related complications. Prompt treatment is advised to treat urethral cancer successfully.
What are the signs and symptoms of Urethral Cancer?
These are the commonly seen signs and symptoms of urethral cancer:
- Blood in the urine
- Urethral bleeding
- Weak/interrupted flow of urine
- Frequent urination
- Lump in the penis
- Abnormal urethral discharge
- Enlarged lymph nodes in groin region
There are several risk factors such as bladder cancer or conditions which cause chronic urethral inflammation that are known to increase the risk of developing urethral cancer. People above the age of 60 years and Caucasian women are found to be more at risk of development of urethral cancer.
How is Urethral Cancer diagnosed?
It is strongly advised to consult an experienced physician or an oncologist in case you notice any of the signs and symptoms of urethral cancer. The doctor will initially perform a complete physical examination and a check of your medical history in order to determine the exact cause and location of the urethral cancer (tumor).
Advanced diagnostic tests may include a trans-urethral biopsy in which the doctor will insert a thin tube in the urethra in order to remove a portion of the cancer-affected urethra. This sample of the cancerous tissue is sent to a pathology lab in order to determine the type of cancer cells as well as its range of metastasizing (spread) to other surrounding parts inside the body.
The doctor/specialist will then determine the most-suitable treatment method for treating your individual case of urethral cancer.
How is Urethral Cancer treated?
There are various methods of treatment for urethral cancer and the type of treatment for you will be decided by the oncologist depending on several factors such as your age, overall health, medical history, stage of urethral cancer, etc. The oncologist/specialist will inform you about each individual treatment methods’ advantages and possible disadvantages.
These are the commonly used treatment methods for treatment of urethral cancer:
The surgical method of removing cancer is one of the most common forms of cancer treatments of the urethral cancer. The variation of the surgical treatment method may include:
- Open excision – This refers to the removal of the cancer using surgical techniques,
- TUR (trans-urethral resection) – This is a form of minimally invasive methods for removal of urethral cancer by inserting a small surgical device inside the urethra.
- Electro-resection with Fulguration – This form of cancer treatment surgery uses electric current to remove cancers. A tool with a light-source and a loop of wire at the end is utilized in removing the cancerous cells (or tumor) by burning it with high-voltage electrical heat.
- Laser surgery – This is a non-invasive urethral cancer treatment method and involves using a high-energy laser beam to target the urethral cancer cells and destroy them precisely as well as removing some of the surrounding tissue in order to prevent the cancer from recurring.
- Lymph Node Dissection – This surgery involves removing the lymph nodes in the pelvic or the groin region.
In case the surgeon requires removing the entire urethra for treatment of cancer a new passage for the urine to pass from the bladder to the outside of the body needs to be created. This is known as a ‘urinary diversion’.
Radiation therapy involves the use of high-energy radiation beams (x-rays or other particles) to target the cancer-affected area and destroy the cancerous cells.
There are two types of radiation therapies:
- External radiation therapy – This method uses an external machine to direct beams of radiation to the urethra in order to destroy the cancer cells.
- Internal radiation therapy – This method involves using radioactive substances placed in needled, seeds, catheters or wires to place them near, or directly on, the cancer.
This cancer treatment method uses medicinal drugs to target and destroy the cancer cells’ ability to develop and divide further. The medicinal drugs are used singularly or in combination with other drugs to fight the cancerous cells. This therapy may require administering the drugs through oral or intravenous methods.
Urethral cancer is one of the more common types of cancer worldwide but needs prompt and reliable treatment to stop it from spreading and affecting other parts and organs in the body.