Cancer of the ureter begins in the cells that line the inside of the tubes (ureters) that connect your kidneys to your bladder. Ureters are part of the urinary tract, and they carry urine produced by the kidneys to the bladder.

Cancer of the ureter is uncommon. It occurs most often in older adults and in people who have previously been treated for bladder cancer.

Treatment for cancer of the ureter most often involves surgery. In certain cases, chemotherapy may be recommended.

  • Collaboration. At Mayo Clinic, urologists, oncologists, pathologists and radiologists work as a multidisciplinary team to provide whole-person care for people with cancer of the ureter. Other professionals are included as needed.
  • Experience. Mayo Clinic doctors have extensive experience diagnosing and treating ureteral cancer. Each year, Mayo Clinic doctors care for more than 200 people with cancer of the ureter.
  • Expertise. Cancer of the ureter is an uncommon cancer. The experience and training of the professionals at Mayo Clinic ensures your care team is prepared with the knowledge and resources to provide you with exactly the care you need.
  • A full range of treatment options to consider. Mayo Clinic doctors will work with you to review all of your treatment options and choose the treatment that best suits your needs and goals. The range of treatments offered to people with ureteral cancer includes chemotherapy and a variety of surgical procedures, including minimally invasive operations.
  • Comprehensive cancer center. Mayo Clinic Cancer Center meets strict standards for a National Cancer Institute comprehensive cancer center, which recognizes scientific excellence and a multidisciplinary approach to cancer prevention, diagnosis and treatment.

Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., and Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale, Ariz., are ranked among the Best Hospitals for cancer by U.S. News & World Report. Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Fla., is ranked high performing for cancer by U.S. News & World Report.

At Mayo Clinic, we assemble a team of specialists who take the time to listen and thoroughly understand your health issues and concerns. We tailor the care you receive to your personal health care needs. You can trust our specialists to collaborate and offer you the best possible outcomes, safety and service.

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Tests and procedures used to diagnose cancer of the ureter include:

  • Physical examination. Your doctor will ask you questions about your signs and symptoms and perform a physical examination to better understand your condition.
  • Urine tests. You may undergo a urinalysis to analyze your urine for any abnormalities. A urine cytology test may be used to look for abnormal cells in a urine sample.
  • Use of a thin, lighted tube to view the ureters. During a procedure called ureteroscopy, your doctor will insert a thin, lighted tube equipped with a camera (ureteroscope) into your urethra. The scope is passed through your bladder and into your ureters.

    Ureteroscopy allows your doctor to visually inspect your ureters and, if necessary, remove a small sample of tissue for laboratory testing (biopsy).

    In the laboratory, a doctor who specializes in analyzing blood and body tissue (pathologist) will carefully examine your cells for signs of cancer. This may include sophisticated analysis of the gene mutations involved in your cancer.

  • Imaging tests. Imaging tests may be used to help your doctor assess the extent of your ureteral cancer. Imaging tests may include intravenous pyelogram or CT urography. In certain cases, a magnetic resonance urogram may be used if you can't undergo CT imaging.

Ureteral cancer treatment typically involves surgery. Your treatment options for cancer of the ureter will vary depending on the size and location of your cancer, how aggressive the cells are, and your own goals and preferences.

Surgery

Surgery is often recommended to remove cancer of the ureter. The extent of your surgery will depend on your situation.

For very early-stage ureteral cancer, surgery may involve removing only a portion of the ureter. For more advanced ureteral cancer, it may be necessary to remove the affected ureter and its associated kidney (nephroureterectomy). Sometimes a portion of the bladder also is removed.

At Mayo Clinic, surgeons are highly skilled in the latest minimally invasive surgery techniques. Whenever possible, surgeons prefer to use minimally invasive surgery to remove cancer of the ureter.

Minimally invasive surgery methods include:

  • Endoscopic surgery. Endoscopic surgery allows certain ureteral cancers to be removed during ureteroscopy. Special surgical tools can be passed through the scope in order to remove the cancer.
  • Laparoscopic surgery. Laparoscopic surgery involves making several small incisions in your abdomen. Specialized surgical tools, including a camera, are inserted through the incisions and used to perform the surgery.
  • Robotic surgery. Robotic surgery is a type of laparoscopic surgery in which the surgical tools are manipulated by a robot that's controlled by the surgeon. Robotic surgery allows for more-precise movements in tight spaces.

Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy is a drug treatment that uses chemicals to kill cancer cells. Chemotherapy is sometimes used before surgery to shrink a tumor and make it easier to remove during surgery. Chemotherapy may be used after surgery to kill any cancer cells that may remain.

In cases of advanced cancer of the ureter, chemotherapy may be used to control signs and symptoms of the cancer.

Mayo Clinic works with hundreds of insurance companies and is an in-network provider for millions of people. In most cases, Mayo Clinic doesn't require a physician referral. Some insurers require referrals or may have additional requirements for certain medical care. All appointments are prioritized on the basis of medical need.

Experts in urology, oncology and other specialties form a multidisciplinary team to provide whole-person care for people with cancer of the ureter.

For appointments or more information, call the Central Appointment Office at 800-446-2279 (toll-free) 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mountain Standard Time, Monday through Friday or complete an online appointment request form.

Experts in urology, oncology and other specialties form a multidisciplinary team to provide whole-person care for people with cancer of the ureter.

For appointments or more information, call the Central Appointment Office at 904-953-0853 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Eastern time, Monday through Friday or complete an online appointment request form.

Experts in urology, oncology and other specialties form a multidisciplinary team to provide whole-person care for people with cancer of the ureter.

For appointments or more information, call the Central Appointment Office at 507-538-3270 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Central time, Monday through Friday or complete an online appointment request form.

See information on patient services at the three Mayo Clinic locations, including transportation options and lodging.

Mayo Clinic doctors and scientists are studying new ways to diagnose and treat cancer of the ureter.

Cancer research is conducted in coordination with the Mayo Clinic Cancer Center. The Mayo Clinic Cancer Center receives funding from the National Cancer Institute and is designated as a comprehensive cancer center — recognition for an institution's scientific excellence and multidisciplinary resources focused on cancer prevention, diagnosis and treatment.

Publications

See a list of publications by Mayo Clinic authors on cancer of the ureter on PubMed, a service of the National Library of Medicine.

Aug. 21, 2014