Upper Tract Urothelial Cancer (UTUC)

Upper Tract Urothelial Cancer (UTUC) is the most common type of cancer of the bladder and urinary tract. At Hoag, our multidisciplinary team of urologists, urologic surgical oncologists and radiation oncologists are dedicated not only to helping you beat cancer, but also to finding the treatments and rehabilitation options that preserve normal urinary function and help ensure a more complete recovery.

You are not alone.

Hoag Family Cancer Institute’s team of specialized urologic cancer experts offer each patient a personalized treatment plan. Our expertly trained medical and surgical oncologists are able to understand each patient’s tumor down to the molecular level for more precise treatment planning. With exclusive technologies like the MR-guided ViewRay MRIdian™ linear accelerator and DaVinci robotic surgical systems, Hoag is one of the few hospitals in California to offer minimally-invasive bladder reconstruction for a more complete recovery with fewer complications after upper tract urothelial cancer.  Hoag has what it takes help you win against UTUC. 



Diagnosing Upper Tract Urothelial Cancer

How is UTUC Diagnosed 

If you are experiencing any symptoms that might suggest Upper Tract Urothelial Cancer (UTUC), including noticeable blood in your urine no matter how slight, please see your doctor. Once you do, your doctor will likely perform a thorough physical exam and do a urinalysis. Depending on the outcome of those tests, your doctor may refer you for other tests that may include: 

  • Imaging tests, which may include ultrasound, CT, PET or MRI scans. 
  • Ureteroscopy, in which a scope is passed through the urethra and the bladder, and then directly into the ureter
  • Urine cytology, in which a urine sample is examined under high magnification to look for cancer cells
  • Surgical biopsy, in which a tissue sample is taken from the tumor for testing
Next Steps for Those Diagnosed with UTUC

The Hoag Family Cancer Institute offers world-class programs for urologic cancer of all types, including upper tract urothelial cancer, with multidisciplinary teams, state-of-the-art facilities and technology and the latest in cancer therapies. 

Learn more about Hoag’s Urologic Cancer Program and our multidisciplinary Urologic Cancer Team.

Treatment Options for Upper Tract Urothelial Cancer

Treatment options for UTUC depend on many factors, including how advanced the cancer is when detected, your age and any other health issues you may have. The treatments Hoag recommends for UTUC vary from patient to patient.

Advanced Surgical Treatments at Hoag

The Hoag Family Cancer Institute’s UTUC cancer team includes experienced, fellowship-trained urologic surgical oncologists who utilize the latest techniques and technology in the surgical management of UTUC. Advanced surgical approaches for the treatment of UTUC at Hoag include:

  • Minimally invasive laparoscopic robotic surgery using a DaVinci Robotics platform. Learn more about the benefits of Hoag’s DaVinci robotics program.
  • Open or traditional surgery

Surgical Procedures at Hoag include:

  • Nephroureterectomy – Surgical removal of the entire kidney, ureter and the tissue that connects the bladder to the ureter.
  • Segmental resection of the ureter – Removal of only the part of the ureter with cancerous cells. The healthy ends of the ureter are then reattached to each other
Non-Surgical Treatment Options

As a full-service cancer center, Hoag offers both inpatient and outpatient settings in order to provide the full spectrum of therapeutic care and support a cancer patient needs. You won’t need to travel far as all our outpatient services are located within Orange County. Our non-surgical treatment options for UTUC include:

Research & Clinical Trials for Upper Tract Urothelial Cancer

Hoag is committed to leading the way in state-of-the-art technologies and advanced treatment options. Part of this commitment includes clinical research with the goal of helping patients live longer, healthier lives. Through carefully planned clinical trials, researchers evaluate the safety and effectiveness of new ways to diagnose, treat and prevent diseases or conditions. Treatments studied in clinical trials might be new drugs or new combinations of drugs, new surgical procedures or devices, or new ways to use existing treatments. View clinical trials for urinary/bladder cancer here.

Do I have Upper Tract Urothelial Cancer (UTUC)?

What is Upper Tract Urothelial Cancer (UTUC)? 

Upper Tract Urothelial Cancer (UTUC) is the most common type of cancer of the bladder and urinary tract. This type of cancer begins in the urothelial cells lining the interior of the bladder, ureters, urethra, renal pelvis and other urinary-related organs. Because other parts of the urinary tract are also lined with urothelial cells, cancer that begins in one area can spread to other parts of the urinary system. These abnormal cells can eventually accumulate into tumors that can potentially spread to other areas of the body.

What are the symptoms of Upper Tract Urothelial Cancer (UTUC)?

The symptoms of Upper Tract Urothelial Cancer (UTUC) can be different for every patient, but common symptoms can include: 

  • Pain or burning during urination
  • Blood in the urine
  • The frequent urge to urinate
  • Feeling like you need to urinate but being unable to
  • Pain in the pelvis or lower back.

What are the risk factors for Upper Tract Urothelial Cancer (UTUC)?

A definitive answer for why some people develop Upper Tract Urothelial Cancer (UTUC) is still being sought by researchers. Some of the known or suspected risk factors for developing UTUC are:

  • Family history of cancers related to the bladder, kidney or urinary tract system. 
  • Smoking, which is a known factor in half of all bladder cancers
  • Exposure on the job to aromatic amines, including benzene, toluene, naphthalene, pyridine, purine and other solvents. 
  • Occupational exposure to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), which are chemicals that can be released when burning coal, oil, gasoline, wood, tobacco, trash, in motor vehicle exhaust or other smoke. Cigarette smoke is particularly high in PAHs.

How can I reduce my risk of developing Upper Tract Urothelial Cancer (UTUC)? 

Ways to reduce your risk of developing Upper Tract Urothelial Cancer (UTUC) include:

  • Wear proper protective equipment, including a correctly-rated respirator, when working around solvents or any sort of smoke emanating from burning materials. 
  • Don’t smoke cigarettes
  • Reduce your intake of grilled or charred meats or foods.