February is National Cancer Prevention Month
Cancer Prevention Month –
Focus on Urologic Cancers
Urologic cancers affect the organs and structures of the male and female urinary system and the male reproductive system. Urologic Cancers include prostate, bladder, kidney and testicular cancer. These cancers are fairly common, and it’s incredibly important to educate our patients about their individual risks, so they know how to monitor their health, and which questions to ask when they come in to our office.
Who is at risk?
Tobacco use is an important risk factor for all urologic cancers.
In the U.S., prostate cancer is the second most common cancer in men. Prostate cancer is more likely to occur in men with a family history of the disease, who eat a high-fat diet and/or are older. More than 70 percent of prostate cancer cases are diagnosed in men older than 65.
By contrast, penile cancer is very rare, accounting for less than one percent of cancers in men. It’s also related to older age, as well as to human papillomavirus (HPV) infection, lack of circumcision and poor genital hygiene.
The rate of testicular cancer is on the rise. Although in most cases it’s not clear what causes testicular cancer, other medical conditions can be risk factors, such as polycystic kidney disease for kidney cancer and chronic inflammation for bladder cancer. A small percentage of these cancers are inherited.
Types of Urologic Cancers
An infection can happen in different parts of your urinary tract. Each type has a different name and symptoms, based on where it is.
Bladder cancer affects the cells that line the urinary bladder, a small sac that collects urine for excretion. Doctors diagnose close to 71,000 people in the United States with bladder cancer each year.
Testicular cancer forms in a testis and accounts for only one percent of all cancers in men. Each year, doctors diagnose around 8,400 cases in the U.S.
Penile cancer is rare. It affects the penis — the male reproductive organ, which is as a part of the urinary system.
Renal (kidney) cancer forms in the small tubes that clean the blood of the kidneys. Renal pelvis cancer is a rare form of this disease. It occurs in the part of the kidney that connects to the bladder. Doctors diagnose about 49,100 cases of renal and renal pelvis cancers each year.
Urethral cancer occurs in the urethra, the tube that conducts urine from the bladder to the outside of the body. In men, the urethra travels through the penis; it also carries semen. Urethral cancer is rare, and it occurs more often in men than in women.
How are urologic cancers diagnosed?
Once doctors have reason to suspect a urologic cancer, they may perform some of the following tests:
- Cystoscopy or ureteroscopy, using a tool with a tiny light or camera to check the ureter (the tube that carries urine), bladder and kidney for tumors.
- Lab tests to look for changes in the blood that could be signs of cancer.
- Imaging studies (MRI, X-ray, ultrasound, CT scan or angiogram) to check for abnormal tissue anywhere along the urinary tract.
- Biopsy to obtain a sample of abnormal tissue and analyze it for cancer cells.
Treatment for urologic cancer depends on several factors, such as the tumor’s grade and stage (indicating how advanced the cancer has become) and the patient’s preference. Common options include surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy. Patients can also receive immunotherapy, which boosts the immune system to fight disease.