Ureters are a pair of tubes that connect kidneys and urinary bladder, they carry urine from the kidney to urinary bladder for urination. They are an important part of the urinary system. Cancer in the ureter is a rare type of cancer. Cancer in these tubes can cause blockage of the urine and its backflow into the kidneys.
Signs and Symptoms
Some people with ureter cancer may not develop any symptoms, however, the common symptoms that are noticed in ureter cancer include:
- Hematuria (blood in urine)
- Unilateral pain in the back
- Weight loss
- Loss of appetite
Causes and Risk factors
The exact cause of ureter cancer is not clear. However, ureter cancer can be caused by chronic use of irritant substances, such as pain killers, use of certain dyes and chemicals which are mainly used in the manufacture of textiles, rubber and leather goods.
The factors that may increase your risk of developing ureter cancer include:
- Advanced age (older than 65 years)
- A family history of testicular cancer has increased the risk of a person of developing cancer.
- Genetic mutations
The tests which are performed for the diagnosis of ureter cancer includes:
- Cystoscopy: Cystoscopy is a minimally invasive procedure which is performed under a local anaesthesia. A flexible, thin tube with a cystoscope is passed through the urethra and finally into the bladder. This lets the doctor view the entire lining if the bladder and urethra.
- Ureteroscopy: Ureteroscopy is performed by passing a flexible tube attached with a scope. The procedure is minimally invasive and must be performed under a general anaesthesia. This test allows for collecting the samples for biopsy to examine the presence of cancer cells.
- Imaging studies: CT scan and MRI are performed to view the ureter in a more detailed format. For performing these images, a dye is injected to help view the abnormal areas in the images.
The treatment choice depends on the stage and extent of cancer spread. Surgery is often the mainstay of treatment, surgery is performed either to remove a part or whole of the ureter. Early stage cancers may need removal of only a part of the ureter. However, if the cancer is advanced, it may need removal of the complete ureter with or without a part of the bladder.
In case, if the tumour has metastasized externally away from the ureter, then chemotherapy is best choice. Chemotherapy includes the treatment of cancer cells with anti-cancer drugs. Chemotherapy can be used to shrink the tumour before the surgery or after the surgery to kill any cancer cells left.
Radiation therapy uses the high-energy radiations to kill the tumour cells. This treatment also helps in shrinking the tumour. Radiation therapy is not commonly used for the treatment of ureter cancer but can be used after performing surgery to treat the left over cancer cells.
Coping and Support
Cancer is curable if detected early. Late stage cancer may need palliative care to increase the quality of life of the patient and keep him or her pain-free.