Urethral Cancer

Urethral cancer is a rare cancer that begins in your urethra. The urethra is the tube that carries urine from the bladder to outside the body.

Urethral Cancer: What You Need to Know 

To lower your risk of developing urethral cancer, avoid conditions that cause repeated inflammation of the urethra, such as:

Urethral cancer is best managed by a group of specialists that include urologists, medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, pathologists, nurses and patient support specialists. Our physicians and other support staff work together as a team, providing expert care.

Because Fletcher Allen is a university medical center, we offer you and your family access to the latest treatments and technologies – including the precision of robotic surgery.

Experienced, Trusted Expertise
Patients facing urethral cancer benefit from our close partnership with the Vermont Cancer Center, where most of our cancer doctors regularly dedicate part of their time to developing more effective means of discovering and treating cancer. This means that your physician has some of the most up-to-date information, which translates into better care for you and your family.

What is Urethral Cancer?

There are several different types of urethral cancer that begin in cells that line the urethra, which are named for the types of cells that become cancerous:

  • Squamous cell carcinoma is the most common type of urethral cancer. It grows in urethral cells near the bladder in women, and in the penis’ urethral lining in men.
  • Transitional cell carcinoma appears near the urethral opening in women, and in the part of the urethra that goes through the prostate gland in men.
  • Adenocarcinoma forms in the glands that are around the urethra in both men and women.

Urethral cancer can spread (metastasize) quickly to tissues around the urethra and is often found in nearby lymph nodes by the time it is diagnosed.

There may be no early urethral cancer symptoms, but once you do have urethral cancer symptoms they can include:

  • Blood in the urine or urethral bleeding
  • Painful urination
  • Frequent urination, especially at night
  • Difficulty starting the flow of urine
  • Weak urine flow
  • Urine flow that stops and starts
  • Inability to control your urine (urinary incontinence)
  • Urethral discharge 
  • A lump or thickness in the penis or the area of the body between the anus and the vulva in women, and between the anus and the scrotum in men (called the perineum)
  • A painless lump or swelling in the groin
  • Extreme tiredness
  • Weight loss without trying

Several factors may increase your risk of developing urethral cancer, including: 

  • Gender: the condition is more common in men than in women
  • Bladder cancer
  • Frequent urinary tract infections (UTIs)
  • Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), including human papillomavirus (HPV), especially HPV type 16
  • Age: older adults over the age of 60
  • Race: urethral cancer is more common in caucasians (white)
  • Pain medication addiction: Fletcher Allen offers a drug addiction program
  • Smoking: Fletcher Allen offers a quit smoking program
  • Extended industrial chemical exposure

Diagnosis and Treatment: Urethral Cancer

Fletcher Allen’s physicians are highly trained in performing procedures to diagnose and treat urethral cancer such as chemotherapy, robotic surgery and ureteroscopy.

Learn more about urethral cancer diagnosis and treatment.

Find a Fletcher Allen physician or call 877-540-HOPE(4673).