Urothelial carcinoma (formerly known as transitional cell carcinoma) is a cancer involving parts of the kidney, bladder and ureter (the tube that connects the kidney to the bladder). Specifically, the cancer develops in the cells that line the bladder, ureter or renal pelvis (the part of the kidney that connects to the ureter, and collects and drains urine). The cells use to be called "transitional" because they can stretch and change shape without breaking.
Outside of the bladder, this is an uncommon cancer and mostly affects older people. It accounts for approximately seven percent of kidney cancers and under five percent of ureter cancers. Urothelial carcinoma of the kidney is highly curable, if found early. Once it spreads into the ureter wall or farther into the kidney, it becomes very serious and difficult to treat.
Smoking cigarettes is a risk factor. Exposure to cancer-causing dyes and chemicals in the workplace, particularly in the leather, textiles, plastics, and rubber industries, has also been linked to this cancer. Misuse and long-term use of certain over the counter pain medicines is suspected of increasing the risk of developing transitional cell cancer as well.
People with urothelial carcinoma of the kidney often have the same symptoms as patients with renal cell cancer. The most prominent symptoms are blood in the urine and unrelenting back pain. Other symptoms might be extreme fatigue, unexplained weight loss, and painful or frequent urination.
Treatment of urothelial cancer depends on whether the cancer is localized, regional or metastatic. If the cancer is localized to the kidney, the usual treatment is surgery. Except in cases where the cancer is very small and contained, the entire kidney, ureter, and a portion of the bladder, could be removed. Chemotherapy is sometimes used in the treatment of urothelial carcinoma. Follow up is important because urothelial carcinoma is known to recur in the bladder.