There are treatments for all patients who have cancer of the urethra; treatment selection depends on the stage and location of the disease and the patient’s age and overall health. Surgery, radiation therapy, and/or chemotherapy may be used.
Surgery is the most common treatment of cancer of the urethra. A doctor may remove the cancer by using one of the following operations:
- • Electrofulguration: In this method, electric current is used to burn away the tumor and the area around it.
- • Laser therapy: This method uses a narrow beam of intense light to kill cancer cells.
- • Cystourethrectomy: The bladder and the urethra are removed.
- • Partial penectomy: This type of surgery removes the part of the penis containing the urethra that has cancer.
- • Total penectomy: Sometimes the entire penis is removed, necessitating plastic surgery to create a new penis.
- • Cystoprostatectomy: The bladder and prostate are removed along with the penis. Lymph nodes in the pelvis may also be removed.
If the urethra is removed, the doctor fashions a new means for the urine to pass from the body; if the bladder is removed, a new mechanism to store and pass urine must be devised. Sometimes part of the small intestine can be used to make a tube through which urine can pass out of the body through an opening (stoma) on the outside of the body. (This is sometimes called an ostomy or urostomy.)
Urethral cancer and invasive bladder cancer
Because people who have bladder cancer sometimes also have cancer of the urethra, the urethra may be removed when the bladder is. If the urethra is not removed during surgery for bladder cancer, the doctor may follow the patient’s condition closely in order to begin treatment if cancer of the urethra develops.
Radiation therapy may combined with surgery in advanced urethral cancer or may be the primary treatment of early urethral cancer that has not spread. Radiation can be applied by using external sources or by surgically implanting radioactive seeds or pellets (brachytherapy) to destroy cancer cells. External radiation and brachytherapy are sometimes used together. External beam radiation usually entails treatment five days a week for about six weeks. Brachytherapy involves surgical implantation of the seeds, which become inactive over time and remain in place.