Cancer of the renal pelvis or ureter is cancer that forms in the kidney’s pelvis or the tube that carries urine from the kidney to the bladder (ureter).
Cancer can grow in the urine collection system, but it is uncommon. Renal pelvis and ureter cancers affect men more often than women and are more common in people older than 65. The causes of this cancer are not completely known. Long-term (chronic) irritation of the kidney from harmful substances removed in the urine may be a factor.
This irritation may be caused by:
- Kidney damage due to overexposure to medicines, especially ones for pain (analgesic nephropathy).
- Exposure to certain dyes and chemicals used to manufacture leather goods, textiles, plastics, and rubber.
Patients with a history of bladder cancer are also at risk.
Symptoms may include any of the following:
- Back pain, most often where ribs and spine meet.
- Bloody urine.
- Burning, pain, or discomfort with urination.
- Dark, rust-colored, or brown urine.
- Flank pain.
- Unintentional weight loss.
- Urinary frequency or urgency.
The goal of treatment is to eliminate the cancer.
Surgery to remove all or part of the kidney (nephrectomy) is usually recommended. This may include removing part of the bladder and tissues around it, or the lymph nodes. If the tumor is in the ureter, it may be possible to remove it while preserving the kidney.
When the cancer has spread outside of the kidney or ureter, chemotherapy is often used. Because these tumors are similar to a form of bladder cancer, they are treated with a similar type of chemotherapy.