Urethral Cancer

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Pacific Urology

At a Glance

  • Urethral cancer is a disease in which malignant (cancer) cells form in the tissues of the urethra.
  • Superficial tumors located in the anterior urethra of both the female and male are generally curable.
  • Deeply invasive lesions or those lesions located in the posterior urethra, because they are almost always deeply invasive, are rarely curable by any combinations of therapy.
  • Urethral cancer is an extremely rare lesion. Urethral cancer comprises less than 1% of the total incidence of malignancies.
  • Because many medical centers see only a few cases over many years, not enough data are available from large series to dictate the best-accepted treatment.


The urethra is the tube that carries urine from the bladder to outside the body. In women, the urethra is about 1½ inches long and is just above the vagina. In men, the urethra is about 8 inches long, and goes through the prostate gland and the penis to the outside of the body. In men, the urethra also carries semen.

Types of Urethral Cancer

Urethral cancer is a rare cancer that occurs more often in women than in men. 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 (cancerous):
  • Squamous cell carcinoma is the most common type of urethral cancer. It forms in cells in the part of the urethra near the bladder in women, and in the lining of the urethra in the penis in men.
  • Transitional cell carcinoma forms in the area near the urethral opening in women, and in the part of the urethra that goes through the prostate gland in men.
  • Adenocarcinoma forms in glands near the urethra in both men and women.

Risk Factors

Risk factors of urethral cancer include the following:
  • Having a history of bladder cancer.
  • Having conditions that cause chronic inflammation in the urethra, including:
  • Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).
    • Frequent urinary tract infections (UTIs).
  • Being 60 or older.
  • Being a white female.


Possible signs of urethral cancer include:
  • Bleeding from the urethra or blood in the urine.
  • Weak or interrupted (“stop-and-go”) flow of urine.
  • Frequent urination.
  • A lump or thickness in the perineum or penis.
  • Discharge from the urethra.
  • Enlarged lymph nodes in the groin area.