Urologic cancer is an inclusive term for the cancers that can develop in the urinary tract, kidneys, testicles, prostate, or penis. Cancers are named after the parts of the body where they begin. For example, kidney cancer starts in the kidney, but can spread to other parts of the body depending on the aggressiveness of the cancer, and when the patient was diagnosed and treated. Because not all men have the same reproductive system, urologic cancers can affect anyone with a urinary tract, penis, prostate, or testicles.
There are six main types of urologic cancer, some of which have further classification if there is more than one form for that cancer to take. Urologic cancers include urethral cancer, bladder cancer, kidney cancer, testicular cancer, prostate cancer, and penile cancer.
The most direct answer is that urologic cancer is caused by fast and abnormal cell growth in the urinary tract, kidneys, testicles, prostate, or penis. However, the causes of urologic cancers are largely unknown. Urologic cancers are fairly common, with many overlapping risk factors or groups (see below). These risk factors or groups can influence a patient’s risk of urologic cancer, but the only uniting cause of urologic cancers is uncontrolled cell growth.
Because the causes of urologic cancers are unknown, it is important for patients at risk of urologic cancers to watch for symptoms. Routine scans of these areas can help a patient discover their baseline and better identify deviations from the norm.
Anyone with a urinary tract, kidneys, testicles, prostate, or penis is at risk for urologic cancers. Though there is some overlap between risk factors or groups for urologic cancer, each type of urologic cancer has its own particular set of risk factors or groups.
Treatment plans for patients with urologic cancer are determined by the type of cancer and which stage it has reached. Doctors will also consider the patient’s symptoms, overall health, and age. Common treatments for urologic cancers include chemotherapy, surgery, hormone therapy, stereotactic radiotherapy, radiation, cryotherapy, and immunotherapy.
These treatments are used widely across the various types of urologic cancer, but no patient is the same. Treatment could vary based on how aggressive the cancer is, the health of the patient, or any number of possible factors.
Patients who have the potential for developing a form of urologic cancer should see a doctor as soon as symptoms start to develop. An effective treatment plan is one started as soon as possible, which means that a patient experiencing abnormal symptoms should see a doctor as soon as symptoms are identified. Urologic cancer is not always identified by the presence of symptoms. For example, some forms of urologic cancer can be nonaggressive, which means that symptoms might not present at all. Knowledge of the risk factors and groups for urologic cancers can help patients understand if screening is necessary, even without experiencing symptoms.
Regular screening is advised for at-risk patients at different ages, depending on which urologic cancer could be present. The screening recommendations are based on a patient’s family history of urologic cancer, overall health, and age. Interested patients should discuss if screening is the right decision with a doctor, as some screenings can result in a misdiagnosis of urologic cancers. Involving a doctor in each step of the process is recommended for any patient at risk for urologic cancers.
The best indicator of survival for patients with urologic cancers are early detection of the cancer and a strictly followed treatment plan. Survival rates differ greatly based on which type of urologic cancer a patient has, as well as what stage the cancer has reached at the point of diagnosis. For this reason, it is imperative that anyone at risk of urologic cancer is routinely checking for symptoms, and seeing a doctor if symptoms develop.
Patients who have undergone treatment for urologic cancer will likely see a doctor twice a year following treatment. The likelihood of recurrence is most influenced by how much the cancer spread before and during treatment. Patients might have additional risk of urologic cancers returning if their health is complicated by another condition. For example, patients with kidney cancer might find their health complicated by high blood pressure.
Some types of and treatments for urologic cancer can impact fertility. Patients can make a fertility plan with doctors prior to treatment.