Ureter cancer, which is also known as ureteral cancer, is among the least common forms of cancer within the urinary tract.
Patients diagnosed with this form of cancer are generally older adults. While rare, young people are also at risk if they have previously been diagnosed and undergone treatment for bladder cancer.
- Located between the kidneys and bladder, ureter tubes act as drainage pipes. As urine is created in the kidneys, it’s transported to the bladder through ureters.
- Because the interior walls of these tubes feature the same cellular structure as bladder cells, ureter cancer often catalyzes the formation of bladder cancer.
Signs and Symptoms
As with other forms of cancer, the onset of ureter cancer can produce a variety of negative symptoms, which can vary in severity. Due to the location of the ureter tubes, and their interaction with both the bladder and kidneys, symptoms are typically related to the entire urinary tract.
The most common symptoms of ureter cancer include:
- Painful urination
- Unexplained weight loss
- Bloody urine
- Generalized/unexplained fatigue
- Back pain (localized or general)
Because ureter cancer can spread to the bladder and/or kidneys, early detection is paramount for treatment success. If you experience any of the symptoms, or other symptoms relating to the urinary tract, schedule an appointment with your doctor.
Causes and Risk Factors of Ureter Cancer
While the understanding of cancer is greater than ever before, researchers remain unsure regarding the exact cause of ureteral cancer. Similar to all forms of cancer, cellular DNA undergoes a specific mutation. This mutation disrupts the natural cellular death process by instructing cells to proliferate when they should die.
Ureter cancer is often triggered by transitional cell carcinomas, or urothelial carcinomas. These cells often trigger similar symptoms attributed to kidney cancer. In fact, cancerous cells can begin at the junction of the kidney and ureter tube, and either spread into the kidney or continue into the ureter.
Although physicians remain unclear regarding specific causes, several risk factors appear to increase the chances of developing ureter cancer. These include:
- Cigarette smoking
- Previously treated kidney or bladder cancer
- Advanced age
Diagnosing and Treating Ureter Cancer
There are several methodologies used to diagnose ureter cancer. Along with a physical examination, imagine and urine tests are often performed. To verify the presence of cancerous cells and/or tumors, physicians perform a ureteroscopy procedure.
Once positively diagnosed, treatment options include:
- Surgical intervention – The most common treatment involves surgically removing the cancerous growths. In the early stages, only a portion of the ureter tube is extracted. However, advanced stages may require removal of the ureter tube, part of the bladder and the kidney associated with the cancerous tube.
- Chemotherapy– Typically reserved for advanced ureter cancer stages, chemotherapy combats cancerous growth by killing afflicted cells. It may be necessary to undergo chemotherapy prior to surgery to help shrink the tumor.