Current Disease Management of Primary Urethral Carcinoma

Eur Urol Focus. 2019 Sep;5(5):722-734. doi: 10.1016/j.euf.2019.07.001. Epub 2019 Jul 13.


Context: Primary urethral cancer (PUC) is a rare cancer entity. Owing to the low incidence of this malignancy, the main body of literature consists mainly of case reports, making evidence-based management recommendations difficult.

Objective: To review reported disease management strategies of PUC and their impact on oncological outcomes.

Evidence acquisition: A systematic research was performed according to the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Review and Meta-analysis (PRISMA) statement using Medline, Scopus, and Web of Science, to find studies of the past 10yr including ≥20 patients, and investigating treatment strategies and their impact on outcomes of the three most frequent histologies: urothelial carcinoma, adenocarcinoma, and squamous cell carcinoma.

Evidence synthesis: In localized PUC, penis-sparing surgery can be performed in males, while in females, complete urethrectomy with surrounding tissue is advised to minimize recurrence due to positive margins. Radiotherapy (RT) has worse survival and recurrence rates, as well as more adverse effects, than surgery, limiting its use in genital-preserving therapy. Locally advanced PUC should be treated with multimodal therapy, as monotherapies result in inferior recurrence and survival rates. Extent of surgery is still undecided, favoring radical cyst(oprostat)ectomy with total urethrectomy (RCU). Lymph node involvement is a predictor of survival, highlighting the role of lymph node dissection for disease control and staging. RT can improve survival in combination with surgery and/or chemotherapy (CHT). Neoadjuvant platinum-based CHT can improve overall and recurrence-free survival. At recurrence, salvage therapy with surgery and/or CHT can improve survival. Superficial urothelial carcinoma of the prostatic urethra can be treated with transurethral resection. Stromal invasion often features concomitant bladder cancer with a poor prognosis and requires RCU with or without systemic preoperative CHT.

Conclusions: PUC is a rare malignancy with an often poor natural course, requiring a stage- and gender-specific risk-based treatment strategy. The role of systematic perioperative CHT and the extent of surgery are becoming more important.

Patient summary: In this review, we looked at the treatment options for primary urethral cancer. We found that while an organ-confined disease can be managed with local resection, growth beyond the organ border makes a combination of different treatment modalities, such as surgery and systematic chemotherapy, necessary to improve outcomes.

Keywords: Disease management; Primary urethral carcinoma; Prognosis; Therapy; Treatment.

Publication types

  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adenocarcinoma / diagnosis*
  • Adenocarcinoma / therapy*
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / diagnosis*
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / therapy*
  • Carcinoma, Transitional Cell / diagnosis*
  • Carcinoma, Transitional Cell / therapy*
  • Decision Trees
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Urethral Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Urethral Neoplasms / therapy*