Cancer - renal pelvis or ureter
Cancer of the renal pelvis or ureter is cancer that forms in the kidney's pelvis or the tube that carries urine from the kidney to the bladder.
Transitional cell cancer of the renal pelvis or ureter
Causes, incidence, and risk factors
Cancer can grow in the urine collection system, but is uncommon. As a group, renal pelvis and ureter cancers account for about 5% of all cancers of the kidney and upper urinary tract. They affect men more often than women and are more common in people older than 65.
Tumors of the renal pelvis and ureter are usually transitional cell cancers. Approximately 10% are squamous cell carcinomas.
The causes of this cancer are not completely known. Long-term (chronic) irritation of the kidney from harmful substances removed in the urine may be a factor. This irritation may be caused by:
- Analgesic nephropathy
- Exposure to certain dyes and chemicals used to manufacture leather goods, textiles, plastics, and rubber
Patients with a history of bladder cancer are also at risk.
Signs and tests
The health care provider will perform a physical exam, and examine your belly area (abdomen). In rare cases, this may reveal an enlarged kidney.
- Urinalysis may show blood in the urine.
- A complete blood count (CBC) may show anemia.
- Urine cytology (microscopic examination of cells) taken during a cystoscopy or urine clean catch sample may reveal cancer cells.
The following tests may be done:
- Abdominal CT scan
- Chest x-ray
- Cystoscopy with ureteroscopy
- Intravenous pyelogram (IVP)
- Kidney ultrasound
- MRI of abdomen
- Renal scan
These tests may reveal a tumor or show that the cancer has spread from the kidneys.
The goal of treatment is to eliminate the cancer.
Surgery to remove all or part of the kidney (nephrectomy) is usually recommended. This may include removing part of the bladder and tissues around it, or the lymph nodes. If the tumor is in the ureter, it may be possible to remove it while preserving the kidney.
When the cancer has spread outside of the kidney or ureter, chemotherapy is often used. Because these tumors are similar to a form of bladder cancer, they are treated with a similar type of chemotherapy.
For additional information and resources, see cancer support groups.
The outcome varies depending on the location of the tumor and whether the cancer has spread. Cancer that is only in the kidney or ureter can be cured with surgery.
Cancer that has spread to other organs is usually not curable. However, there are exceptions.
- Kidney failure
- Local spread of the tumor with increasing pain
- Spread of the cancer
Calling your health care provider
Call your health care provider if you have the symptoms listed above.
- Follow your health care provider's advice regarding medications, including over-the-counter pain medicine.
- Stop smoking.
- Wear protective equipment if you may be exposed to substances that are toxic to the kidneys.
Bajorin DF. Tumors of the kidney, bladder, ureters, and renal pelvis. In Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 203.
National Comprehensive Cancer Network. National Comprehensive Cancer Network Clinical Practice Guidelines in Oncology: Bladder cancer. 2012. Version 2.2012.
The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. ©1997-2013 A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
Sign Up for Free Newsletters
Ask Your Doctor the RIGHT Questions!
the most from your doctor visit.
Emailed right to you!
The Ask Your Doctor email series
may contain sponsored content.
18+, US residents only please.
Explore Original Articles About...
Get the MOST from QualityHealth
- Top Searches
- 1. Arthritis Management: Nature Heals
- 2. 5 Digestive To-Dos
- 3. Men: Should You Shave It or Leave It?
- 4. Today's Top Fitness Trends
- 5. Sugar and Osteoarthritis : The Link
- 6. Can't Afford Your Hospital Bills?
- 7. Stay Energized All Day Long
- 8. Phobias: Who Has Them and Why?
- 9. What If Your EpiPen Fails?
- 10. 5 Costly Medical Billing Mistakes
- 1. Ice Falls Can Cause Serious Injuries
- 2. Can Inactivity Act Like a Disease?
- 3. Kale Snack Recipe for Diabetics
- 4. How Running Affects Arthritis
- 5. Sugar and Your Immunity System
- 6. Do Weight Loss Supplements Work?
- 7. 5 Super Foods for Spring
- 8. The Hazards of Reusable Bags
- 9. How to Avoid Ingrown Hairs
- 10. Health Tip: Constantly Change Shoes
- 1. 4 Common Treatments for Epilepsy
- 2. What Does a Urogynecologist Do?
- 3. GERD Without Heartburn? It's Possible
- 4. Graston Technique: Can It Work on You?
- 5. Music Therapy Can Help Autism
- 6. 8 Ways to Fight MS-Related Fatigue
- 7. Can You Still Bleed After Menopause?
- 8. Be Your Own Health Care Advocate
- 9. Why Is Syphillis on the Rise?
- 10. Ideal Weight vs. Happy Weight
The material on the QualityHealth Web site is for informational purposes only, and is not a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment provided by a physician or other qualified health provider. See additional information.