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Alternative Names Return to topTransitional cell cancer of the renal pelvis or ureter
Definition Return to top
Cancer of the renal pelvis or ureter is cancer that forms in the pelvis or the tube that carries urine from the kidney to the bladder.
Causes Return to top
Cancer can grow in the urine collection system, but is uncommon. As a group, renal pelvis and ureter cancers account for no more than 5% of all cancers of the kidney and upper urinary tract. They affect men more often than women and are more common in people older than 65.
Tumors of the renal pelvis and ureter are usually transitional cell cancers. Approximately 10% are squamous cell carcinomas.
The causes of this cancer are not completely known. Long-term (chronic) irritation of the kidney from harmful substances removed in the urine may be a factor. This irritation may be caused by:
Patients with a history of bladder cancer are also at risk.
Symptoms Return to top
Exams and Tests Return to top
A physician will examine the abdomen by touch. Rarely is there a lump (mass) or enlarged kidney. The patient may have blood in the urine. A complete blood count (CBC) may show anemia.
Cancer cells may appear on the following tests:
The tumor, or signs of urinary obstruction, may appear on:
An x-ray, CT scan, or MRI of other areas of the body may show that the cancer has spread from the kidneys.
Treatment Return to top
The goal of treatment is to eliminate the cancer.
Surgery to remove all or part of the kidney (nephrectomy) is usually recommended. This may include removing part of the bladder and tissues around it, or the lymph nodes. If the tumor is in the ureter, it may be possible to remove it while preserving the kidney.
When the cancer has spread outside of the kidney or ureter, chemotherapy is often used. Because these tumors are similar to a form of bladder cancer, they are treated with a similar type of chemotherapy.
Support Groups Return to top
For additional information and resources, see cancer support groups.
Outlook (Prognosis) Return to top
The outcome varies depending on the location of the tumor and whether the cancer has spread. Cancer that is only in the kidney or ureter can be cured with surgery.
Cancer that has spread to other organs is usually not curable. However, there are exceptions.
Possible Complications Return to top
When to Contact a Medical Professional Return to top
Call your health care provider if you have the symptoms listed above.
Prevention Return to top
References Return to top
National Comprehensive Cancer Network Clinical Practice Guidelines in Oncology: Bladder Cancer, Including Upper Tract Tumors and Urothelial Carcinoma of the Prostate. National Comprehensive Cancer Network; 2008. Version 2.2008.Update Date: 6/10/2008 Updated by: David C. Dugdale III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine; and James R. Mason, MD, Oncologist, Director, Blood and Marrow Transplantation Program and Stem Cell Processing Lab, Scripps Clinic, Torrey Pines, California. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.