Urethral Cancer Staging

The stage of cancer tells how much and how far the disease has spread. By using imaging exams and blood and urine tests, a doctor can tell the stage of a person's urethral cancer. A cancer's stage is one of the most important factors in deciding what treatment will be most effective.

Urethral cancer is staged and treated based on the part of the urethra that is affected and how deeply the tumor has spread into tissue around the urethra. Urethral cancer can be described by its location and the type of tissues that are affected..

  • In anterior or distal urethral cancer, the tumors do not involve deeper tissue and affect the urethral section closest to the outside of the body.

  • In posterior or proximal urethral cancer, the tumors have spread deeply into the surrounding tissue and affect the urethral section closest to the bladder. The entire urethra may be affected in women, while in men, the prostate gland may be affected.

 Urethral cancer staging and treatment may also be described by the type of cancer cells found: 

  • Transitional cell carcinoma 

  • Squamous cell carcinoma 

  • Adenocarcinoma

The following stages are also used to describe urethral cancer:

  • Stage 0 (Carcinoma in Situ). Abnormal cells which have not yet become cancer are found in the inner lining of the urethra. These abnormal cells have the potential to develop into cancer and spread further into urethral tissue.

  • Stage A. Abnormal cells have advanced to cancer cells and have spread into the layer of tissue next to the urethral lining.

  • Stage B. Cancer cells have spread into the muscle tissue surrounding the urethra. In men, the tissue in the penis surrounding the urethra may also be involved.

  • Stage C. Tissues beyond the urethra are affected. The vagina, lips of the vagina (vulva), and/or nearby muscle tissue may be involved in women. In men, cancer has spread to the penis and/or nearby muscle tissue.

  • Stage D. This stage is divided into two stages, based on the location of the cancer's spread.

    • Stage D1. The cancer has spread to nearby lymph nodes beyond the pelvis and groin. The cancer has not spread to distant organs.

    • Stage D2. The cancer has spread to lymph nodes beyond the pelvis and/or groin, and may also have spread to other organs in the body, such as the liver, lungs, and bone.