Urethra cancer or urethral carcinoma is predominantly diagnosed in patients who are over 50 years old. A urologist should be consulted at the first warning signs such as blood in the urine or pain when urinating. If the disease is detected at an early stage, the chances of a cure for urethral cancer are quite good.
What is urethral cancer?
In urethral cancer, the patient’s urethra is affected by malignant growths. Other names for urethral cancer are urethral carcinoma and urethral carcinoma. Urethral cancer is an extremely rare form of cancer, with only about 0.3 percent of all cancer patients suffering from this rare form of cancer.
Women are affected about twice as often as men. This is due to the anatomically shorter urethra in women and the associated higher susceptibility to infections and inflammation of the urinary tract. Most patients only develop urethral cancer at an advanced age.
The causes of urethral cancer cannot be clearly determined. However, current science assumes that there is a connection between frequent urinary tract infections and the occurrence of urethral cancer. Because of the shorter urethra, women are more likely to suffer from these infections, which is why they are also more likely to be affected by urethral cancer.
People who suffer from an STD also have an increased risk of developing urethral cancer. Another risk factor for this cancer is certain sexual preferences, which can injure the sensitive urethra.
In some patients, urethral cancer also develops from an initially benign growth in the urethra, which later continues to grow and can eventually develop into a malignant tumor called urethral cancer.
Symptoms, Ailments & Signs
At the beginning of a urethral carcinoma there are no or only unspecific symptoms. In a more advanced phase, the urinary stream weakens increasingly. There is an increased urge to urinate, but the bladder is no longer completely emptied. The urinary stream is also sometimes split or twisted.
As the disease progresses, the patient complains of dribbling urine. In addition, pain occurs when urinating even without inflammation. Blood is often found in the urine during laboratory tests . This symptom, called microscopic hematuria, is imperceptible to the naked eye.
Microscopic hematuria occurs in urethral tumors, especially after sexual intercourse. However, gross hematuria can also occur, whereby the urine turns reddish due to blood admixtures. More and more urine gradually accumulates in the urethra. This increases the risk of infections in the urinary tract. In extreme cases, there is complete urinary retention with severe flank pain that can radiate into the groin.
The retention of urine in the kidneys causes long-term damage, leading to the development of severe kidney failure. As the tumor continues to grow, it can lead to abscesses and fistulas. In later stages of the disease, those affected suffer from severe weight loss. There is also increased sweating at night. With timely treatment, urethral cancer is still completely curable. Once metastases have formed, the chances of healing decrease.
Diagnosis & History
If there is a suspicion of urethral cancer in a patient, a specialist in urology should be consulted so that he can make the diagnosis. Symptoms of urethral cancer can include painful urination, blood in the urine and a reduced flow of water when going to the toilet.
After questioning the patient about their symptoms and examining the urine, the urologist will usually arrange for a cystoscopy. This provides information about the cell structure in the bladder and urethra. The urologist will also advise patients to make an appointment with their gynecologist in order to rule out a disease that affects the gynecological area.
Another way of detecting urethral cancer is urethroscopy, i.e. an endoscopic examination of the urethra and bladder, during which a tissue sample of the tumor can also be taken if necessary. A thorough diagnosis also includes the search for metastases, which is usually carried out with the help of ultrasound or other imaging methods such as MRI or CT. The earlier the disease is discovered and treated, the higher the chances of recovery from urethral cancer.
In many cases, urethral cancer can be treated well if it is diagnosed early and treatment can be initiated at an early stage. In most cases, traces of blood appear in the urine due to urethral cancer. Bloody urine can lead to a panic attack in many people. Burning pain occurs when urinating, which makes everyday life difficult for those affected.
It is not uncommon for people to deliberately drink less liquid in order to prevent this pain directly. However, this leads to dehydration of the body, which is a very unhealthy condition. In most cases, the water jet when urinating is relatively weak, which can often lead to psychological problems and depression. Like any other cancer, urethral cancer can spread to other parts of the body, causing discomfort and destroying tissue there as well.
Irreversible consequential damage can occur if the urethral cancer is not treated in time. The treatment is carried out with the help of surgical interventions or by means of radiation. However, success depends on the time of diagnosis, so that a positive course of the disease cannot be guaranteed. It is not uncommon for the life expectancy of the patient to be reduced as a result of urethral cancer.
When should you go to the doctor?
A doctor must be consulted as soon as the person concerned suffers from unpleasant symptoms when urinating for several days. Pain or a pulling sensation in the abdomen is a cause for concern and should be seen by a doctor. If there is a feeling of pressure in the bladder region, blood in the urine or burning when urinating, a doctor is needed. If the urinary stream is severely reduced or the urine can only be passed in droplets, a doctor must be consulted.
If the symptoms continue to increase, you should see a doctor immediately. If exhaustion, inner restlessness or behavioral problems occur, it is necessary to clarify the symptoms. Changes in libido, social withdrawal, or general malaise should be evaluated by a doctor. If fear or panic attacks set in, there is a need for action. A doctor’s visit should be made as soon as possible. If the symptoms lead to reduced fluid intake, a life-threatening condition can develop.
A doctor should therefore be consulted as soon as a feeling of internal dryness sets in. A doctor should be consulted in the event of a drop in the usual level of performance, mental disorders, increased tiredness or a general feeling of illness. Since urethral cancer can be fatal, it is advisable to have the symptoms described investigated immediately.
Treatment & Therapy
In the case of urethral cancer, an attempt is first made to remove the malignant tumor from the urethra with the help of an operation. Depending on the size and doctor of the urethral cancer, radiation or chemotherapy is also used.
The operation is often very difficult, especially in the case of larger tumors, which is why many patients try to shrink the urethral cancer first with the help of radiation or chemotherapy. In this way, better operating conditions can be created and the area to be operated on can be kept smaller. For very large tumors that require immediate surgery, it may even be necessary to remove the entire bladder or, in men, part of the penis.
However, after removal and cancer treatment, reconstruction can be done using parts of the intestine. After the tumor is removed, most patients are advised to continue treatment with radiation and/or chemotherapy to safely kill any cancer cells and prevent the urethral cancer from coming back.
Outlook & Forecast
Urethral cancer is the rarest type of urological cancer, with fewer than 2000 known cases. In addition, the differences in the anatomy of the urethra between men and women and the localization of the tumor in the tissue have a decisive influence on the treatment options and thus the prognosis.
The prognosis and treatment options also depend on factors such as: whether the cancer has spread through the mucous membrane lining the urethra to surrounding tissues, to the lymph nodes, or to other parts of the body such as organs. Also included is the patient’s general health and whether the cancer was newly diagnosed or has recurred.
As a result, diagnosed cases of urethral cancer usually lead to an individual course of treatment for each patient. Different types of urethral cancer develop inside different types of cells, in different parts of the urethra.
About 60% of noninvasive urethral cancer patients treated with surgery or chemotherapy survive for more than five years.
The recurrence rate for invasive urethral cancer treated in combination with surgery, chemotherapy and radiation is over 50 percent. Early diagnosis and treatment offers the best chance of recovery.
An effective prevention of urethral cancer is not yet known. Since frequent urethritis and venereal diseases can promote the development, it is advisable to be treated by a specialist at an early stage if one of these diseases occurs. A healthy lifestyle can also help prevent the development of urethral cancer.
Follow-up care of urethral carcinoma is urgently needed. Follow-up care should be tailored to the individual patient’s medical history. In the case of a severe course of the disease, closer follow-up care is usually necessary. It is also relevant whether the patient is symptom-free or not. The type and scope of the follow-up examinations can therefore vary greatly from patient to patient.
In addition, it is important to recognize the formation of metastases in other body organs in good time. Various investigations are carried out for this purpose. In addition to imaging procedures such as CT, MRI and X-rays, certain blood tests support the aftercare treatment. Preventive measures should also be taken to avoid a recurrence.
In addition, care should be taken to reduce the risk factors that can lead to inflammation of the urinary tract. Rehabilitation of the patient after treatment of a urethral carcinoma is also conceivable. Both inpatient and outpatient measures are available in special tumor aftercare centers.
The aim of a successful reintegration measure is to improve the patient’s quality of life. This includes not only the physical factors, but also includes the psychological, social and professional situation. As a rule, doctor and patient decide in consensus whether such a measure is necessary and expedient or not.
You can do that yourself
Urethral cancer is a serious and life-threatening disease that does not go away on its own. A lengthy treatment and therapy under medical supervision is absolutely necessary. Possible self-therapies or attempts at healing with home remedies are strongly discouraged.
Nevertheless, patients can contribute to the positive course of the disease. First and foremost, a positive attitude towards life and a hopeful basic attitude towards the disease play a role. Those who give up on themselves have poorer chances of recovery. It is part of the positive basic attitude to have trust in the doctor or doctors. If this is not the case, a change of doctor can be considered. If you trust the doctor and his competence, it is also easier to follow the recommendations and therapy prescriptions.
If an operation takes place, the patient can support his recovery by not only listening to many tips for his future life in the subsequent rehabilitation measure, but also putting them into practice to the best of his knowledge. A general improvement in living conditions, eating habits and overall physical condition makes the body more resistant to future treatment steps.
Alcohol should be consistently avoided while taking the tablets . Instead, it is very important to drink a lot so that the body is sufficiently detoxified by the kidneys. The consumption of nicotine should also be avoided completely.