Urethra is a tube like structure coming out of the urinary bladder. It drains the urine collected in the urinary bladder out of the human body. The male urethra is long and courses through the penis to open in the urethral opening. In females, however the urethra has a shorter course and opens in urethral opening lying above the vaginal opening.
The cancer of the cells of this tube is called as urethral cancer. The urethral cancer is rare type of cancer. Urethral cancer makes almost about 1 to 2% of the urological cancer. Urethral cancer is more common females than in males. The reason behind this is the length of the urethra which is longer in males and shorter in females. It is seen in women more than 60 years of age.
There are three types of urethral cancer.
- Squamous cell carcinoma
- Transitional cell carcinoma
Risk factors for urethral cancer:
The exact cause of urethral cancer is not yet known. But following are some of the risk factors of urethral cancer:
- Previous history of bladder cancer
- Long term sexually transmitted disease
- Long term urinary tract infection
- Infected with human papilloma virus
- History of urethral stricture
- Age more than 60 years’ old
- Female gender
the person might complain of following symptoms if he/she is suffering from following symptoms:
- Blood in the urine
- Weak flow of urine
- Discharge from the penis or urethral opening
- Interrupted flow of urine
- Repetitive sensation for urination
- Thickness of perineal area
- Enlarged lymph node in the groin area
- Physical examination: The doctor will examine the urogenital area. The doctor also conducts examination of the lymph nodes in the groin.
- Urine examination: The urine is examined under microscope to detect the abnormal cancer cells.
- Cystoscopy: it is a procedure in which the urethra and the bladder are visualised with the help of a scope.
- Biopsy: while performing cystoscopy, a small piece of the tissue is obtained from the urethra and sent for histopathological examination.
- CT Scan and MRI: these tests are done to detect if there is any spread of the cancer in the adjacent body tissue.
- Chest X RAY, bone scan: these tests are also performed to identify any other metastasised zones.
The following treatment modalities are available for treating urethral cancer.
- Surgery: it is the most common way of removing the cancerous tissue. Now a-days, very sophisticated surgical procedure are developed in which there is minimal incision to take out the cancerous cells. The lymph nodes affected are also taken out by lymph node dissection. The types of surgery conducted are as follows:
- Open excision
- LASER surgery
- Chemotherapy: chemotherapy is either given orally or intravenously. It can also be used prior to a surgery to reduce the size of the tumour.
- Radiotherapy: radiotherapy is also useful in some cases of urethralcancer.
As with the most cancer, the sooner urethral cancer is diagnosed better are the chances of survival.