Renal pelvis and ureter cancer

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What is renal pelvis and ureter cancer?

Renal pelvis cancer starts in the renal pelvis in the kidney. Ureter cancer starts in the tube that carries urine from the kidney to the bladder. These cancers are malignant tumours. Malignant means that they can spread, or metastasize, to other parts of the body.

The renal pelvis and ureter are part of the urinary system. Urine is made by the kidneys, where it collects in the renal pelvis. It passes to the bladder through 2 tubes called ureters. Urine passes from the bladder and out of the body through a tube called the urethra.

Cells in the renal pelvis or ureter sometimes change and no longer grow or behave normally. These changes may lead to benign tumours such as papillomas. Benign tumours are not cancerous. But in some cases, changes to renal pelvis or ureter cells can cause cancer.

Cancers of the renal pelvis and ureter are similar to bladder cancers rather than kidney cancers. They start in the cells that line the inside of the renal pelvis, ureter and bladder. This type of cancer is called urothelial carcinoma, or transitional cell carcinoma. Urothelial carcinomas make up more than 90% of all renal pelvis and ureter cancers. Urothelial carcinomas are also the most common type of bladder cancer.

Rare types of renal pelvis and ureter cancers can also develop. These include squamous cell carcinoma and adenocarcinoma.

Diagram of the location of the kidneys


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