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Urethral Cancer Treatment Introduction

The treatment choices for each person depend on the size and location of the tumor in the urethra, as well as the stage or extent of the disease. A doctor also considers the person's age and general health when making recommendations about a treatment. Because the reproductive anatomy is different for men and women, the treatments for urethral cancer can be different based on the sex of the patient.

Many people want to learn all they can about their disease and their treatment choices so that they can take an active part in decisions about their care. They are likely to have many questions and concerns about their treatment options. The doctor is the best person to answer questions about treatment, such as what the treatment choices are, how well it might work, and what the risks and side effects may be. Most patients also want to know how they will have to change their normal activities.

Woman speaking with a doctor in an office

Types of Treatment

Treatment for urethral cancer is either local or systemic. Local treatments remove, destroy, or control the cancer cells in one certain area. Surgery and radiation are local treatments. Systemic treatments destroy or control cancer cells throughout the entire body. Chemotherapy is a systemic treatment. A person may have just one treatment or a combination of treatments.

Goals of Treatment

Different types of treatments have different goals. In some cases, your doctor may talk to you about choosing watchful waiting. This may be an option in certain cases when the cancer is very slow growing or when the treatment may involve more risks than the disease. If you and your doctor decide to choose watchful waiting, you will see your doctor regularly to monitor the cancer but not start treatment. Below is a list of various urethral cancer treatments with their respective goals.

  • Surgery. The goal of surgery is to remove the tumor from the urethra, while leaving as much of the urethra as possible intact. Surgery is the most common treatment for urethral cancer.

  • Radiation therapy. The goal of radiation is to kill cancer cells by using high-energy X-rays. This treatment is sometimes used to shrink a tumor before surgery or to treat any remaining cancer cells after surgery. If surgery is not possible, radiation may be used alone to treat the symptoms of urethral cancer.

  • Chemotherapy. The goal of chemotherapy is to shrink the cancer when it has spread to other parts of the body. Occasionally, it may be used to reduce the size of a urethral cancer before surgery.

Doctors are always looking for new ways to treat urethral cancer. These new methods are tested in clinical trials. Before beginning treatment, ask your doctor if there are any clinical trials you should consider.

At first, the information you receive about treatment options may seem overwhelming. It is important to take the time to gather as much information as possible about your disease and its treatment and to discuss the issues with your doctors, nurses, and loved ones. Your doctor is the best person to answer questions about treatment. Many people find it helpful to make a list of questions before seeing their doctor.

To make it easier to remember what the doctor says, take notes. It might help to have a family member or friend along to take part in the discussion, to take notes, or just to listen.