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What is upper tract urothelial cancer?

Upper tract urothelial cancer (sometimes called transitional cell carcinoma) is a cancer that occurs in either the inner lining of the tube that connects the kidney to the bladder (the ureter) or within the inner lining of the kidney. The renal pelvis is the upper end of the ureter that carries urine from the kidney to the bladder. The kidney has several cup-like cavities, called calyces, where urine is collected. The calyces drain urine into the renal pelvis which acts as a funnel to the bladder. UTUC can occur in all of these areas.

The lining of the bladder, kidney and ureter are the same, so there are some similarities between upper tract urothelial cancer and bladder cancer. Blood in the urine (haematuria) is a symptom of both cancers, however, UTUC can block the ureter or kidney, causing swellings and infections and can affect kidney function in some people.

How common is upper tract urothelial cancer?

Around 470 Australians are diagnosed each year with UTUC. It is three times more likely to be diagnosed in men than women, and people aged over 70 years.

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Understanding Upper Tract Urothelial Cancer

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This information is reviewed by

This information was last reviewed February 2021 by the following expert content reviewers: the Australian and New Zealand Urogenital and Prostate (ANZUP) Cancer Trials Group Consumer Advisory Panel; Gregory Bock, Urology Cancer Nurse Coordinator, WA Cancer and Palliative Care Network, North Metropolitan Health Service, WA; Dr Tom Ferguson, Medical Oncologist, Fiona Stanley Hospital, Perth, WA; Prof Dickon Hayne, UWA Medical School, The University of Western Australia, and Head, Urology, South Metropolitan Health Service, WA; Steven Jones-Evans, Consumer; Caitriona Nienaber, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council WA; Dr Carlo Yuen, Urologist, St Vincent’s Hospital, Sydney, NSW.