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Urologic Cancers Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Risks

Urologic Cancer Symptoms and Signs

The symptoms of urologic cancer vary depending on which organ or structure it affects.

Bladder cancer symptoms and signs

Bladder cancer may cause:

  • Blood in the urine
  • Problems with urination
  • Lower back pain
  • Overly frequent urination
  • Painful urination

Penile cancer symptoms and signs

Penile cancer may cause changes to the penis and symptoms such as:

  • Blood at the tip of the penis
  • Color changes
  • Discharge with odor
  • Growths or sores
  • Irregular swelling
  • Pain
  • Rash or bumps under the foreskin
  • Swollen lymph nodes in the groin
  • Thickened skin

Renal cancer symptoms and signs

Symptoms of renal cancer may include:

  • Anemia
  • Appetite loss
  • Blood in the urine
  • Enlarged veins (varicocele) near a testicle
  • Fatigue
  • High blood pressure
  • Lump on the side or back
  • Pain in the side or back
  • Swelling of the ankles and legs
  • Unexplained weight loss

Testicular cancer symptoms and signs

Testicular cancer symptoms may include:

  • Breast tenderness or growth (gynecomastia)
  • Changes in size or firmness of testicles
  • Dull ache in the groin
  • Fluid buildup in the scrotum
  • Pain in a testicle or the scrotum
  • Painless lump or swelling on either testicle

Urethral cancer symptoms and signs

Urethral cancer may cause:

  • Bleeding from the urethra
  • Blood in the urine
  • Discharge
  • Enlarged lymph nodes in the groin
  • Interrupted urine flow
  • Lump in the perineum or penis

Urologic Cancer Risk Factors

Risk factors increase a person's chance of cancer development.

In some cases, people can change their habits or jobs to reduce risk factors. In every case, tobacco and alcohol use can increase the risk for cancer.

Risk factors vary with the type of urologic cancer.

Bladder cancer risk factors

  • Age over 40
  • A job in the dye, leather, or rubber industries
  • Being male
  • Prior cancer treatment with arsenic or cyclophosphamide

Penile cancer risk factors

  • Age over 50
  • HIV/AIDS infection
  • Human papillomavirus (HPV) infection
  • Poor personal hygiene
  • Psoriasis treatment with psoralen and ultraviolet light

Renal cancer risk factors

  • Exposure to asbestos or cadmium
  • High blood pressure
  • Long-term dialysis
  • Obesity
  • Occupation in the iron and steel industries
  • Von Hippel-Lindau syndrome

Testicular cancer risk factors

  • Abnormal testicular development
  • Family history
  • Undescended testicle (cryptorchidism)

Urethral cancer risk factors

  • Age over 60
  • Being female
  • Frequent urinary tract infections
  • History of bladder cancer
  • History or presence of sexually transmitted diseases

Urologic Cancer Diagnosis and Staging

UPMC Hillman Cancer Center specialists use state-of-the-art diagnostic technologies to learn the type and stage of your urologic cancer.

Diagnostic tests may include:

  • CT scan — this process makes a 360° view of the body, useful for creating 3D images. CT scans show a higher level of detail than x-rays and take more accurate pictures.
  • MRI scan — this imaging test uses radio waves and magnetic energy combined with computer enhancement to create cross-sectional pictures.
  • X-ray — this test uses electromagnetic radiation to create pictures of structures inside the body.

Staging ensures that each member of the care team understands the exact type, size, location, and spread of the cancer.

Your care team will conduct tests and procedures to classify the type and stage of your disease.

Your doctor will also assign a grade and stage to your cancer.

Low-grade tumors are easier to treat. High-grade cancers are harder to treat and may also spread more easily.

The clinical stage factors in:

  • Your doctor's assessment of your urologic cancer.
  • Your test results.
  • Data from imaging studies.

The pathologic stage is more accurate. Your doctor assigns this stage after he or she has seen the cancer during surgery.

Doctors use three categories to stage urologic cancers: TNF.

  • T stands for tumor. This designation gets a number that refers to how advanced the tumor is.
  • N stands for nodes (lymph nodes). This lets the care team know if the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes in the region.
  • M stands for metastasis. It refers to whether the tumor has spread to other parts of the body.

Each stage — T, N, and F — gets a number that indicates:

  • The size of the tumor.
  • How it has spread.
  • How far it has spread. 

Urologic Cancer Prognosis and Outcomes

UPMC Hillman Cancer Center is the only Comprehensive Cancer Center in the region recognized by the National Cancer Institute.

Our experts work together to consider not just the stage or type of cancer, but also factors that affect your wellbeing.

Your prognosis — or chance of recovering from urologic cancer — will depend factors such as:

  • Your diagnosis.
  • Your overall health.
  • How well your urologic cancer care team expects your treatment plan to work.

In any case, our team will work at its highest level of expertise to achieve the best possible results.

Contact Us About Urologic Cancer Care

To learn more about urologic cancer care or to make an appointment, you can: