Incidence, risk factors, and prevalence

Urethral cancer affects the urethra, which is the tube that connects the bladder to the outside of the body. It serves to remove urine from the body.

Various treatments are available for urethral cancer, with the best option depending on the stage of the cancer and other factors, such as the person’s age. The side effects of these treatments and the outlook for people with this disease vary among individuals.

In this article, we provide more information about urethral cancer and what someone with this condition can expect.

Urethral cancer is a rare form of urological cancer that is responsible for less than 1% of all cases of cancer of the genital or urinary organs. Urological cancers include those that affect the urinary tracts of all sexes and the reproductive organs of males.

Urethral cancer affects males and females differently, though the research findings on this are conflicting. According to the National Cancer Institute, this type of cancer affected 4.3 of every million males and 1.5 of every million females between 1973 and 2002. The Urology Care Foundation also state that the cancer affects more males than females.

However, both Beaumont Health and UCLA Health state that the cancer affects more females than males.

According to a recent study, survival rates of urethral cancer are based largely on the age of the person and stage of the cancer at the time of diagnosis. As with most cancers, early detection plays an important part in treatment and survival.

A person may not notice symptoms in the early stages of the cancer. According to the Urology Care Foundation, a person may start to notice symptoms once the cancer has grown larger.

The symptoms may include:

  • a noticeable growth or lump on the urethra
  • pain during urination
  • blood in the urine
  • trouble emptying the bladder

Some people may experience additional symptoms, including:

  • urinary incontinence
  • enlarged lymph nodes in the groin
  • bleeding or discharge from the urethra
  • frequent urge to urinate or frequent urination
  • a growth on the penis or bulging along the underside of the penis

The Urology Care Foundation state that a female’s urethra is about 1.5 inches long. It sits near the outside of the front of the vagina, within the labia.

According to recent research, the treatment goal for females with urethral cancer is to remove the tumor while maintaining as much of the urethra as possible for urination.

As the female urethra is short, there is a high risk of urinary incontinence — the loss of bladder control — after the removal of any primary urethral tumor.

A male’s urethra is about 8 inches in length. It runs from the bladder, through the center of the prostate, and along the shaft of the penis.

Researchers note that the goals for treating males with urethral cancer include removing the tumor, as well as preserving the function of the penis.

UCLA Health state that urethral cancer is most common in people over the age of 60 years. Beaumont Health also indicate