Cancer of the ureter

Urothelial carcinoma is the cancer of urinary system that includes the kidney, urinary blaader, ureter and other accessory organs. Cancer of the ureter is a rare type of cancer. The ureter is a tube that carries urine from the kidney to the bladder. It is a type of transitional cell cancer. Transitional epithelium lines the ureter, urinary bladder, and the superior urethra. This cancer is common and accounts to about one out of every 25 upper urinary tract tumors.

Causes and risk factors

Smoking is associated with increased risk of ureter cancer. Chronic irritation of the kidney due to the use of nephrotoxic medications and exposure to chemicals such as leather, plastics, or rubber is the main cause of cancer of the ureter.

Older adults and patients with a history of bladder cancer are at an increased risk of ureter cancer.

Symptoms

Initially, there will be no symptoms. Symptoms appear in the later stages of cancer and include:

  • Persistent back pain

  • Ureter pain; especially if there are kidney stones

  • Fatigue

  • Flank pain (discomfort in the upper abdomen or back and sides)

  • Increased urinary frequency

  • Urinary urgency

  • Hematuria (blood in urine)

Diagnosis

Diagnosis of cancer of the ureter includes:

  • Fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH) test – to detect chromosomal abnormalities

  • Urography – imaging studies such as computed tomography or magnetic resonance imaging for staging the cancer

  • Intravenous pyelography (IVP) – urography with x-ray for staging and detecting the abnormalities in the urinary system

  • Ureteroscopy – to detect abnormalities in the ureter

  • Biopsy – microscopical examination of the lesion for staging the cancer

  • Treatment

    The standard treatment for the ureter cancer is surgery. Surgery is performed to remove the entire ureter or a part of the ureter depending on the extent of the disease.

    Endoscopic resection or fulguration is performed to remove cancer cells with the help of ureteroscopy. Fulguration procedure uses electric current to remove cancer cells.

    Laser surgery is also performed using a laser beam to destroy cancer cells.

    In some cases, chemotherapy and radiation therapy are also given to destroy cancer.

    Coping and support

    The symptoms and treatment can cause certain physical changes affecting your quality-of-life. Though you are just diagnosed, undergoing the treatment, or finished the treatment; you should learn how to cope with cancer. Learn about the disease and make certain lifestyle changes for faster recovery.

    Make your caregivers understand the situation and let them provide support to you in coping with cancer.