Urethral and Penile Cancer

Urethral cancer is a form of cancer that starts in the urethra, the tube that transports urine from your bladder to outside your body. In men, the urethra is about 8 inches long and passes through the prostate and penis. It also carries semen. In women, the urethra is about 1 ½ inches long and is located just above the vagina.

There are three main types of urethral cancer:

  • Squamous cell carcinoma — Involves the cells that line the urethra in the penis in men and near the bladder in women. Squamous cell carcinoma is the most common form of urethral cancer.

  • Adenocarcinoma — Cancer cells form in the glands near the urethra.

  • Transitional cell carcinoma — In men, the cancer cells grow where the urethra passes through the prostate. In women, cancer develops near the urethra’s opening.

Risk Factors for Urethral Cancer

Urethral cancer is rare in both men and women. It occurs most often in people older than 60. Other risk factors include:

  • Frequent urinary tract infections.
  • History of bladder cancer.
  • History of sexually transmitted diseases, especially human papillomavirus (HPV).
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Make an appointment

For more information, please contact your oncologist or the Cancer Care Center at (859) 301-4000.

Symptoms of Urethral Cancer

In its earliest stages, urethral cancer may not have noticeable symptoms. Once it becomes more advanced, symptoms may include:

  • A lump or thickness in the area around your urethra.
  • A painless lump or swelling in your groin.
  • Blood in your urine.
  • Discharge from your urethra.
  • Frequent or excessive urination, especially at night.
  • Weak, interrupted urine flow.

Diagnosing Urethral Cancer

Diagnosing urethral cancer often begins with a complete physical examination and review of your personal and family medical histories.

Additional testing may include:

  • Blood tests
  • CT scan
  • Digital rectal exam
  • Pelvic exam
  • Tissue biopsy
  • Ultrasound
  • Urinalysis

Treating Urethral Cancer

Treatment for urethral cancer depends on several factors, including how far the disease has progressed and your overall health.

Options may include:

  • Chemotherapy — Therapy that uses drugs injected through IV, taken by mouth or applied on the skin to attack and kill cancer cells.

  • Radiation therapy — Therapy that uses high-energy radiation to shrink tumors and kill cancer cells.

  • Surgery — A procedure to remove cancer while preserving as much healthy tissue as possible.

  • Watchful waiting — Treatment that involves closely monitoring the cancer but not giving treatment unless it progresses.

Your Cancer Care Team

Cancer Research Physicians

The team includes medical oncologists specializing in immunotherapy and precision medicine, surgical oncologists, radiation oncologists, interventional radiologists, thoracic surgeons, pain management specialists, genetic counselors, pathologists, nutritionists, pharmacists, nurses and support staff. They work together to create a treatment plan that’s just right for you.