Urethral Cancer: Patient Education

Cancer Facts

According to the National Cancer Institute:

  • Urethral cancer occurs more often in women than in men.
  • It’s more common in people age 60 and older.


Urethral cancer is a malignant tumor that begins in the tissues of your urethra, the tube that carries urine from your bladder to outside your body. Urethral cancer is rare.

The Urethra

The urethra is a little different in men than in women.

The urethra in women:

  • Is about 1-1/2 inches long
  • Empties in front of the vagina

The urethra in men:

  • Is about 8 inches long
  • Travels through the prostate gland
  • Opens at the end of the penis

How Urethral Cancer Grows

Urethral cancer often begins in the lining of your urethra. The lining of your urethra is composed of different kinds of cells that in some cases become different kinds of cancers. The different cancers require distinct treatments.

Find out more about the symptoms of urethral cancer.

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Types of Urethral Cancers

Squamous cell carcinoma

  • The most common kind of urethral cancer
  • In women: develops in the urethra near the bladder
  • In men: develops in the lining of the urethra in the penis

Transitional cell carcinoma

  • In women: develops near the urethral opening
  • In men: develops in the part of the urethra in the prostate gland


  • In women and men: develops in the glands near the urethra

Urethral cancer can spread (metastasize) quickly to the adjacent lymph nodes and tissues.

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