What is Urinary Cancer?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 11 September 2019
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Urinary cancer is a cancer which originates in the urinary tract. Metastatic urinary cancer starts in the urinary tract and spreads to neighboring structures in the body. This type of cancer is about three times as common in men as it is in women, and smoking greatly increases the risk of developing urinary cancer. The prognosis for people with this cancer depends on the location of the cancer and when the diagnosis occurs.

The first sign of urinary cancer is usually blood in the urine, which may or may not be visible. People may also experience difficulty urinating or find that urinating is very painful. In addition, people with urinary cancer often have a strong urge to urinate, but cannot produce urine. If the cancer starts to spread, the lymph nodes in the groin may swell, and the patient may experience pain and tenderness in the lower abdomen.

This cancer can strike the bladder, kidneys, ureters which drain fluid from the kidneys to the bladder, or urethra which drains urine from the bladder to the outside of the body. It is diagnosed during a cytoscopy procedure, in which a catheter is threaded into the urinary tract with a camera attached for the purpose of visualizing the inside. Biopsy samples can be taken, and if a urinary cancer appears isolated, the doctor may go ahead and remove it during the cytoscopy.


Treatments for urinary cancer include removal of the cancerous growth, removal of an entire kidney or the bladder if the cancer is highly invasive, chemotherapy, and radiation. The goal is to kill the cancer and prevent it from spreading before it has a chance to damage neighboring organs. For patients who need to have the bladder removed, the doctor will need to create an artificial bladder and set up a drainage system; historically this was done by draining urine into a bag outside the body, but more advanced systems now allow people to drain urine by inserting a catheter, or sometimes even through the urethra itself, just as in regular urination.

An oncologist can discuss a specific prognosis with a patient. Some things to think about when diagnosed with urinary cancer include the prognosis offered by the doctor, the number of treatment options available, and the risk of metastasis. It can help to consult another doctor for a second opinion to get a different perspective on the situation before making any final decisions about how to move forward.


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