Ureter cancer is relatively rare, and it’s important to understand the risk factors and symptoms.
The ureter is the narrow passage that allows the passing of urine from the kidney to the bladder. Ureter cancer is associated with bladder cancer and may spread other nearby areas.
Ureter cancer occurs more frequently in women. It’s also more common in people over 60 who have or have had bladder cancer.
Chronic inflammation of the urinary tract and sexually transmitted diseases such as the human papillomavirus (HPV) are associated with this type of cancer. Smoking is also associated with the development of urinary tract cancers in the bladder, ureter and kidney.
Ureter cancer often doesn’t present many symptoms in the beginning. Gradually, the symptoms that appear can include:
Blood in the urine
Bleeding from the ureter
Weak flow of urine
Interrupted flow of urine
Types of Ureter Cancer
A biopsy determines if these symptoms are related to cancer of the ureter or a benign condition. The biopsy shows what type of ureter cancer is present. Squamous cell carcinoma is the most common type, The other two more common types are transitional cell carcinoma (seen at the opening of the ureter in women and in the prostate area of men) and adenocarcinoma (found in glands near the ureter).
Surgery is the principal treatment (with radiation and/or chemotherapy used either in conjunction with the surgery) or sometimes the only treatment. Every situation is different and complex, due to the location and function of the ureter.
Endoscopic – very small surgical tools are passed through a ureteroscope to remove small areas of cancer
Laparoscopic – small incisions are made in the abdomen that allow a camera and surgical tools to be inserted into the abdomen to perform the surgery
Robotic – a highly specialized type of laparoscopic surgery where small surgical instruments fit into very small spaces and are controlled by a surgeon from a computer console
The ureter and bladder may be removed during surgery. Depending on the involvement of other organs, more areas may need to be removed. Lymph nodes may also be removed. When the bladder and ureter are removed, a urinary diversion is created to allow for the elimination of urine from the kidneys.
Some patients can avoid a urinary diversion if their cancer is on the surface of the ureter and located near the bladder. They may qualify for a segmental resection, where a portion of the ureter is removed and the ureter is reattached.