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:
- 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.
- Back pain, most often where ribs and spine meet
- Burning, pain, or
discomfort with urination
- Dark, rust-colored, or brown urine
Fatigue Flank pain
weight loss Urinary frequency or urgency
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 cystoscopyor 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 (
When the cancer has spread outside of the kidney or ureter, chemotherapy is often used. Because these tumors are similar to a form of
For additional information and resources, see
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.
- 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.
Wear protective equipment if you may be exposed to substances that are toxic to the kidneys.