Transitional Cell Cancer: Renal Pelvis & Ureter

At a Glance

  • Transitional cell cancer of the renal pelvis and ureter is a disease in which malignant (cancer) cells form in the renal pelvis and ureter.
  • Transitional cell carcinoma of the renal pelvis accounts for only 7% of all kidney tumors and transitional cell cancer of the ureter accounts for only 1 of every 25 upper tract tumors.
  • Such transitional cell cancers are curable in more than 90% of patients if they are superficial and confined to the renal pelvis or ureter.


The renal pelvis is part of the kidney and the ureter connects the kidney to the bladder. There are 2 kidneys, one on each side of the backbone, above the waist. The kidneys of an adult are about 5 inches long and 3 inches wide and are shaped like a kidney bean. The kidneys clean the blood and produceurine to rid the body of waste. The urine collects in the middle of each kidney in a large cavity called the renal pelvis. Urine drains from each kidney through a long tube called the ureter, into the bladder, where it is stored until it is passed from the body through the urethra. The renal pelvis and ureters are lined with transitional cells. These cells can change shape and stretch without breaking apart. Transitional cell cancer starts in these cells. Transitional cell cancer can form in the renal pelvis or the ureter or both. Renal cell cancer is a more common type of kidney cancer.

Risk Factors

Risk factors include the following:
  • Misusing certain pain medicines, including over-the-counter pain medicines, for a long time.
  • Being exposed to certain dyes and chemicals used in making leather goods, textiles, plastics, and rubber.
  • Smoking cigarettes.


Possible signs of transitional cell cancer of the renal pelvis and ureter include:
  • Blood in the urine.
  • A pain in the back that doesn’t go away.
  • Extreme tiredness.
  • Weight loss with no known reason.
  • Painful or frequent urination.