Overview

Cancer of the ureter (ureteral cancer) is a type of cancer that 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.

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

Ureteral cancer is closely related to bladder cancer. The cells that line the ureters are the same type of cells that line the inside of the bladder. People diagnosed with ureteral cancer have a greatly increased risk of bladder cancer, so your doctor will recommend tests to look for signs of bladder cancer.

Treatment for ureteral cancer typically involves surgery. In certain cases, chemotherapy may be recommended.

Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of ureteral cancer include:

  • Blood in urine
  • Back pain
  • Pain when urinating
  • Losing weight without trying
  • Fatigue

When to see a doctor

Make an appointment with your doctor if you have any persistent signs and symptoms that worry you.

Causes

It's not clear what causes ureteral cancer.

Doctors know this cancer begins when a cell in the inside lining of the ureter develops an error (mutation) in its DNA. The mutation tells the cell to multiply rapidly and to continue living when normal cells would die. The result is a growing mass of abnormal cells that can grow to block the ureter or spread to other areas of the body.

Risk factors

Factors that can increase the risk of ureteral cancer include:

  • Increasing age. The risk of ureteral cancer increases with age. Most people diagnosed with this cancer are in their 70s and 80s.
  • Previous bladder or kidney cancer. People who have been diagnosed with bladder cancer or kidney cancer have an increased risk of ureteral cancer.
  • Smoking. Smoking tobacco increases the risk of ureteral cancer, as well as other urinary tract cancers, including kidney cancer and bladder cancer.

Ureteral cancer care at Mayo Clinic

Oct. 06, 2017
References
  1. Bladder cancer. Fort Washington, Pa.: National Comprehensive Cancer Network. http://www.nccn.org/professionals/physician_gls/f_guidelines.asp. Accessed July 25, 2017.
  2. Wein AJ, et al., eds. Urothelial tumors of the upper urinary tract and ureter. In: Campbell-Walsh Urology. 11th ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Elsevier; 2016. https://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed July 25, 2017.
  3. Warner KJ. Allscripts EPSi. Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. April 14, 2017.