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Urethral Cancer Treatment (PDQ®)

Health Professional Version
Last Modified: 03/12/2014

Distal Urethral Cancer

Female Distal Urethral Cancer
Male Distal Urethral Cancer
Current Clinical Trials



Female Distal Urethral Cancer

If the malignancy is at or just within the meatus and superficial parameters (stage 0/Tis, Ta), open excision or electroresection and fulguration may be possible. Tumor destruction using Nd:YAG or CO2 laser vaporization-coagulation represents an alternative option. For large lesions and more invasive lesions (stage A and stage B, T1 and T2, respectively), brachytherapy or a combination of brachytherapy and external-beam radiation therapy are alternatives to surgical resection of the distal third of the urethra. Patients with T3 distal urethral lesions, or lesions that recur after treatment with local excision or radiation therapy, require anterior exenteration and urinary diversion.

If inguinal nodes are palpable, frozen section confirmation of tumor should be obtained. If positive for malignancy, ipsilateral node dissection is indicated. If no inguinal adenopathy exists, node dissection is not generally performed, and the nodes are followed clinically.

Standard treatment options:

  1. Open excision and organ-sparing conservative surgical therapy.[1]
  2. Ablative techniques, such as transurethral resection, electroresection and fulguration, or laser vaporization-coagulation (Tis, Ta, T1 lesions).[2,3]
  3. External-beam radiation therapy, brachytherapy, or a combination of the two (T1, T2 lesions).[4]
  4. Anterior exenteration with or without preoperative radiation and diversion (T3 lesions or recurrent lesions).[2,3]

The level of evidence for these treatment options is 3iiiDiv.

Male Distal Urethral Cancer

If the malignancy is in the pendulous urethra and is superficial, there is potential for long-term disease-free survival. In the rare cases that involve mucosa only (stage 0/Tis, Ta), resection and fulguration may be used. For infiltrating lesions in the fossa navicularis, amputation of the glans penis may be adequate treatment. For lesions involving more proximal portions of the distal urethra, excision of the involved segment of the urethra, preserving the penile corpora, may be feasible for superficial tumors. Penile amputation is used for infiltrating lesions. Traditionally, a 2-cm margin proximal to the tumor is used, but the optimal margin has not been well studied. Local recurrences after amputation are rare.

The role of radiation therapy in the treatment of anterior urethral carcinoma in the male is not well defined. Some anterior urethral cancers have been cured with radiation alone or a combination of chemotherapy and radiation therapy.[4,5]

If inguinal nodes are palpable, ipsilateral node dissection is indicated after frozen section confirmation of tumor, because cure is still achievable with limited regional nodal metastases. If no inguinal adenopathy exists, node dissection is not generally performed, and the nodes are followed clinically.

Standard treatment options:

  1. Open-excision and organ-sparing conservative, surgical therapy.[1,3]
  2. Ablative techniques, such as transurethral resection, electroresection and fulguration, or laser vaporization-coagulation (Tis, Ta, T1 lesions).[2,3]
  3. Amputation of the penis (T1, T2, T3 lesions).
  4. Radiation (T1, T2, T3 lesions, if amputation is refused).[4]
  5. Combined chemotherapy and radiation therapy.[5]

The level of evidence for these treatment options is 3iiiDiv.

Current Clinical Trials

Check for U.S. clinical trials from NCI's list of cancer clinical trials that are now accepting patients with distal urethral cancer. The list of clinical trials can be further narrowed by location, drug, intervention, and other criteria.

General information about clinical trials is also available from the NCI Web site.

References
  1. Davis JW, Schellhammer PF, Schlossberg SM: Conservative surgical therapy for penile and urethral carcinoma. Urology 53 (2): 386-92, 1999.  [PUBMED Abstract]

  2. Trabulsi DJ, Gomella LG: Cancer of the urethra and penis. In: DeVita VT Jr, Lawrence TS, Rosenberg SA: Cancer: Principles and Practice of Oncology. 9th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2011, pp 1272-79. 

  3. Karnes RJ, Breau RH, Lightner DJ: Surgery for urethral cancer. Urol Clin North Am 37 (3): 445-57, 2010.  [PUBMED Abstract]

  4. Koontz BF, Lee WR: Carcinoma of the urethra: radiation oncology. Urol Clin North Am 37 (3): 459-66, 2010.  [PUBMED Abstract]

  5. Cohen MS, Triaca V, Billmeyer B, et al.: Coordinated chemoradiation therapy with genital preservation for the treatment of primary invasive carcinoma of the male urethra. J Urol 179 (2): 536-41; discussion 541, 2008.  [PUBMED Abstract]