Urethral cancer refers to any malignant tumor that developsfrom the layer of cells that coversthe urethral or glands whichbranch off the internal wall of the urethra. This is a rare medical condition, accounting for less than 1% of all cancers. The most common form is the urothelial carcinoma (or transitional cell carcinoma), representing about 90% of all urethral cancercases.
Anatomy of the Urethra
The urethra is a tubularconduit that carries urine from the bladder to the outside. In men, it alsocarries the sperm from the seminal vesicles. It is short in women, measuring approximately 1½ inches in length, and its opening is at the level of the vulva, specifically between the clitoris and the vaginal opening; while in men its length is 8½ inches on average. More specifically, the urethra is aduct leading from the bladder neck to the urethral orifice (urinary meatus), the orifice that permits the flow of urine (and sperm in men).
In men the urethra is divided into anterior and posterior. The anterior urethra is made of the penile and bulbar urethra, extending to the urogenital diaphragm, a superficial muscular layer that spans the outlet of the pelvis; and the posterior urethra, which is made of the membranous and prostatic urethra. It is in the prostatic urethra that comes to open the ejaculatory ducts and the prostatic ductsthat allow the flow of sperm.
Urethral Cancer Causes andRisk Factors
As it is the case of most malignant tumors, urethra cancer causes are not well known; some factors are suspected, however. The good news some of those factors can be prevented. Common risk factors for urethral cancer include the following:
Bladder Cancer– Having a history of bladder cancer puts an individual at more risk of having the disease.
Infection/Inflammation of the Urethra – People who suffer from chronic infection or inflammation in the urethra are at higher risk for this cancer. Certain conditions that can lead to urethral Inflammation include:
- HPV infection, especially HPV type 16
- Frequent or untreated urinary tract infections (UTIs).
Age – urethral cancer is extremely rare in young people. The occurrence of the disease in both sex increases with age: the risks increase from 0.65% before age 45 to about 3% after 75 years in men,and 0.42% before age 45 to 9.5% after 75 years in women. Average age at diagnosis is 60 years
Gender – urethral cancer is more common in women, about 4 women for 1 man. Tumors of the maleurethra are very rare, representing less than 1% urinary tract cancers, and mainly affect elderly menaged 60 years or older.
Race – African Americans are more affected by urethral cancer than the white population. Thedisease is mainly diagnosed in black women.