Epidemiology, diagnosis, preoperative evaluation and prognostic assessment of upper-tract urothelial carcinoma (UTUC)

World J Urol. 2017 Mar;35(3):379-387. doi: 10.1007/s00345-016-1928-x. Epub 2016 Sep 7.


Purpose: Upper-tract urothelial carcinoma (UTUC) is a relatively uncommon disease with limited available evidence on specific topics. The purpose of this article was to review the previous literature to summarize the current knowledge about UTUC epidemiology, diagnosis, preoperative evaluation and prognostic assessment.

Methods: Using MEDLINE, a non-systematic review was performed including articles between January 2000 and February 2016. English language original articles, reviews and editorials were selected based on their clinical relevance.

Results: UTUC accounts for 5-10 % of all urothelial cancers, with an increasing incidence. UTUC and bladder cancer share some common risk factors, even if they are two different entities regarding practical, biological and clinical characteristics. Aristolochic acid plays an important role in UTUC pathogenesis in certain regions. It is further estimated that approximately 10 % of UTUC are part of the hereditary non-polyposis colorectal cancer spectrum disease. UTUC diagnosis remains mainly based on imaging and endoscopy, but development of new technologies is rapidly changing the diagnosis algorithm. To help the decision-making process regarding surgical treatment, extent of lymphadenectomy and selection of neoadjuvant systemic therapies, predictive tools based on preoperative patient and tumor characteristics have been developed.

Conclusions: Awareness regarding epidemiology, diagnosis, preoperative evaluation and prognostic assessment changes is essential to correctly diagnose and manage UTUC patients, thereby potentially improving their outcomes.

Keywords: Diagnosis; Epidemiology; New technologies; Predictive tools; Prognosis; Risk factor; UTUC.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Aristolochic Acids / metabolism
  • Carcinoma, Transitional Cell / diagnostic imaging
  • Carcinoma, Transitional Cell / epidemiology*
  • Carcinoma, Transitional Cell / pathology
  • Carcinoma, Transitional Cell / surgery
  • Colorectal Neoplasms, Hereditary Nonpolyposis / epidemiology*
  • Humans
  • Kidney Neoplasms / diagnostic imaging
  • Kidney Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Kidney Neoplasms / pathology
  • Kidney Neoplasms / surgery
  • Kidney Pelvis / diagnostic imaging
  • Kidney Pelvis / pathology
  • Kidney Pelvis / surgery
  • Lymph Node Excision
  • Neoadjuvant Therapy
  • Preoperative Care
  • Prognosis
  • Risk Factors
  • Ureteral Neoplasms / diagnostic imaging
  • Ureteral Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Ureteral Neoplasms / pathology
  • Ureteral Neoplasms / surgery
  • Ureteroscopy
  • Urinary Bladder Neoplasms / epidemiology*


  • Aristolochic Acids
  • aristolochic acid I