Cancer of the urethra (the channel that carries urine from the bladder out of the body) is rare, occurring most commonly after age 50. It can occur in men and women. Certain types of human papillomavirus are implicated as the cause of cancer of the urethra in some people. Otherwise, the cause is unknown.
The first symptom is usually blood in the urine. The amount of blood may be so small that it can be detected only under a microscope. On the other hand, the urine may be visibly red. The flow of urine may become obstructed, making urination difficult or the stream of urine slow and thin. Fragile, bleeding growths at the external opening of a woman's urethra may be cancerous. A biopsy must be performed to positively identify a cancer.
Radiation therapy, surgical removal, or a combination of both has been used to treat cancer of the urethra with variable results. The prognosis of cancer of the urethra depends on the precise location and extent of the cancer.
Last full review/revision December 2007 by David A. Swanson, MD