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Urethral Cancer

Urethral cancer is the rarest of all urologic cancers. Only 1 or 2 people out of 100 patients with cancer get this type. It is more common in males than females. The urethra is the tube that carries urine from the bladder to outside the body. In females, the urethra is about 1½ inches long and is just above the vagina. In males, the urethra is about 8 inches long and goes through the prostate gland and the penis to the outside of the body. In males, the urethra also carries semen.

There are different types of urethral cancer that begin in cells that line the urethra. These cancers are named for the types of cells that become malignant. Urethral cancer can spread quickly to tissues around the urethra and is often found in nearby lymph nodes by the time it is diagnosed.

Signs and Symptoms

In the early stages, there may not be many symptoms. As the cancer grows, some patients may notice a lump or growth on the urethra. Others may notice pain or bleeding when they urinate. If the tumor narrows or restricts the urethra, you may have trouble voiding, or you may pass blood from the urethra. 

Risk Factors

A risk factor is anything that increases your chance of getting a disease such as cancer. Different cancers have different risk factors. Some risk factors, like your age or family history, can’t be changed.

But having a risk factor, or even several risk factors does not mean that you will get the disease. And some people who get the disease may have few or no known risk factors. For urethral cancer, risk factors include:

  • Having a history of bladder cancer
  • Having conditions that cause chronic inflammation in the urethra
  • Frequent urinary tract infections

Treatment Overview

There are different types of treatment for patients with urethral cancer. Four types of standard treatment are used:

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