Cancer of the ureter (ureteral cancer) is a type of cancer that begins in the cells that line the inside of the tubes (ureters) that connect your kidneys to your bladder. Ureters are part of the urinary tract, and they carry urine produced by the kidneys to the bladder.
Ureteral cancer is uncommon. It occurs most often in older adults and in people who have previously been treated for bladder cancer.
Ureteral cancer is closely related to bladder cancer. The cells that line the ureters are the same type of cells that line the inside of the bladder. People diagnosed with ureteral cancer have a greatly increased risk of bladder cancer, so your doctor will recommend tests to look for signs of bladder cancer.
Treatment for ureteral cancer typically involves surgery. In certain cases, chemotherapy may be recommended
Signs and symptoms of ureteral cancer include:
- Blood in urine
- Back pain
- Pain when urinating
- Losing weight without trying
When to See a Doctor
Make an appointment with your doctor if you have any persistent signs and symptoms that worry you.
It’s not clear what causes ureteral cancer.
Doctors know this cancer begins when a cell in the inside lining of the ureter develops an error (mutation) in its DNA. The mutation tells the cell to multiply rapidly and to continue living when normal cells would die. The result is a growing mass of abnormal cells that can grow to block the ureter or spread to other areas of the body.
Factors that can increase the risk of ureteral cancer include:
- Increasing age. The risk of ureteral cancer increases with age. Most people diagnosed with this cancer are in their 70s and 80s.
- Previous bladder or kidney cancer. People who have been diagnosed with bladder cancer or kidney cancer have an increased risk of ureteral cancer.
- Smoking. Smoking tobacco increases the risk of ureteral cancer, as well as other urinary tract cancers, including kidney cancer and bladder cancer.
Ureteral cancer treatment typically involves surgery. Your treatment options for cancer of the ureter will vary depending on the size and location of your cancer, how aggressive the cells are, and your own goals and preferences.
Surgery is often recommended to remove ureteral cancer. The extent of your surgery will depend on your situation.
For very early-stage ureteral cancer, surgery may involve removing only a portion of the ureter. For more-advanced ureteral cancer, it may be necessary to remove the affected ureter, its associated kidney (nephroureterectomy) and a portion of the bladder.
Chemotherapy is a drug treatment that uses chemicals to kill cancer cells. Chemotherapy is sometimes used before surgery to shrink a tumor and make it easier to remove during surgery. Chemotherapy may be used after surgery to kill any cancer cells that may remain.
In cases of advanced ureteral cancer, chemotherapy may be used to control signs and symptoms of the cancer.
After your treatment, your doctor will create a schedule of follow-up exams to look for signs that your cancer has returned. These exams also look for signs of bladder cancer, since people diagnosed with ureteral cancer have an increased risk of bladder cancer.
The tests you’ll undergo and the schedule of exams will depend on your situation. But expect to see your doctor every few months for the first year and then less frequently after that.