Genitourinary cancer begins in the urinary tract, adrenal glands, kidney, ureter, bladder, urethra, penis, testicles, prostate, and male reproductive organs.
Urologic cancer specialists at the WVU Cancer Institute focus solely on cancers that affect the urologic system. We bring you the latest methods to diagnose and treat all forms of urologic cancers.
We offer care in state-of-the-art facilities, and our team understands that cancer is physically and emotionally challenging. A cancer diagnosis is never easy to hear, but at the WVU Cancer Institute, you’ll have access to some of the nation’s best in urologic cancer care. It’s where you’ll find hope, compassionate care, and the expertise you need to treat your cancer.
Types of Urologic Cancers We Treat
The WVU Cancer Institute has a comprehensive team that brings together board-certified surgeons, urology specialists, medical oncologists, and other medical professionals with expertise in urologic cancer. The team designs a treatment plan customized to your specific type of cancer and your needs.
Our team brings expertise to diagnosing and treating these cancers.
This type of cancer begins in the bladder, which is located in the pelvis and holds urine. Most bladder cancer starts in the lining of the bladder where cells grow abnormally and out of control. There are different types of bladder cancer, including urothelial carcinoma (also called transitional cell carcinoma) and squamous cell cancer of the bladder.
This cancer can begin on or in the penis. Although it’s a rare cancer, it can be treated. There are different types of penile cancer, including squamous cell, sarcoma, melanoma, and basal cell carcinoma.
The prostate is the small gland in the male pelvis and is next to the bladder. Prostate cancer starts in the gland and is the second leading cause of cancer deaths for men. Both benign (noncancerous) and cancerous growths can affect the prostate.
Renal (kidney) cancer
This type of cancer is also called kidney cancer and starts when abnormal cells within the kidneys grow out of control. The kidneys are responsible for filtering impurities out of the body, removing excess water, making the hormones that control blood pressure, and signaling to the body to produce more red blood cells. There are different types of kidney cancer, including renal cell carcinoma, renal sarcoma, and Wilms tumor.
Testicular cancer begins in the testosterone and sperm-producing testes (male reproductive organs). This is a rare cancer that affects younger men. Most cancer that forms in the testicles is germ cell cancer — these are the cells responsible for making sperm.
Diagnosing Urologic Cancers
There are different ways to diagnose urologic cancers. It depends on which type of cancer is suspected. However, because urologic cancers may not have symptoms in the earlier stages, early diagnosis can be difficult. Talk to your doctor right away if you notice any new symptoms such as pelvic pain, weak urine stream or trouble with urination, erectile dysfunction, blood in the urine, or blood in the semen.
We use the latest diagnostic tests to diagnose urologic cancers and create a personalized plan for your care. These diagnostic tools include:
- Advanced imaging — Doctors use the latest technology to detect signs of disease and see whether cancer has spread to other parts of the body, such as the lymph nodes. These diagnostic imaging tools include transrectal ultrasound (TRUS), which takes images of the prostate gland; computed tomography (CT); magnetic resonance imaging (MRI); and positron emission tomography (PET).
- Biopsy — If an imaging test shows an abnormal area, doctors will biopsy tissue and examine it under a microscope to learn whether cancer is present. During a biopsy, a doctor removes a small sample of tissue at the site to analyze in a lab. Biopsy results help oncologists plan the best treatment for you. Several different biopsy types include incisional biopsy, excisional biopsy, lymph node biopsy, and fine-needle aspiration.
- Digital rectal exam (DRE) — This test detects lumps, enlargements, or hard areas in the prostate and may help detect prostate cancer.
- Lab, tumor marker, and urine tests — To help diagnose and plan for treatment, certain lab tests look at any changes in genes, chromosomes, or proteins. We use urine tests, such as urine cytology, to see if there are any cancer or precancerous cells in the urine. Different urine tumor marker tests, such as NMP22, Immunocyt, or BTA Stat, are used to measure specific levels of a chemical made by bladder cancer cells.
- Physical exam — Doctors conduct a health history and use a physical exam to look for signs of something going on in your body such as the presence of a tumor. Your doctor may recommend exams to check the health of the penis, prostate, bladder, kidney, or testicles.
- Prostate-specific antigen (PSA) density test — The PSA is an enzyme that the prostate gland produces. When the prostate gland is enlarged or diseased, higher levels of PSA can be found. The PSA test is the most effective test used to detect early prostate cancer.
- Renal angiography — This is an x-ray test using an injection of a contrast dye placed into the kidney’s blood vessel. This test is used as part of a CT or MRI scan to see if the kidney’s blood supply is affected by an abnormality or blockage.
Treatment for Urologic Cancers
Starting with your very first visit, our team works with you to address your specific condition and needs. Our goal is to treat cancer at its earliest stage. Because this isn’t always possible with some urologic cancers, our goal is to form a plan to remove cancer when possible or prevent cancer from growing. Your treatment approach will depend on the type of tumor and its stage. Your care plan may include:
- Arterial embolization — This is a procedure used to block the blood supply to a tumor. Doctors make a small cut in the inner thigh and insert a thin, flexible tube into an artery near the tumor. Once in place, small particles made of tiny gelatin beads are injected and help block or stop the tumor’s blood flow.
- Cryoablation — This type of treatment uses extreme cold to destroy tumors in the kidney. Doctors use a hollow needle inserted into the tumor site to deliver cold gases such as nitrogen.
- Medical oncology — Medical oncology includes chemotherapy, immunotherapy, targeted therapies, and hormone therapy. Our doctors use the latest in anti-cancer medicine to destroy cancer cells. We also use medicines to slow cancer growth and shrink tumors before surgery. Sometimes, we use medication alongside other treatments such as radiation or after surgery to destroy any cancer cells that might remain.
- Palliative surgery — Our surgeons use different palliative surgery approaches when cancer has spread and can’t be removed. These surgeries may relieve symptoms and improve quality of life.
- Radiation oncology — We use radiotherapy treatments to target, destroy, and shrink cancer. The treatments use a linear accelerator to produce precise, high-energy rays that target the exact area of cancer and spare healthy cells.
- Surgery — Surgery can help us diagnose, stage, and treat many tumors. We use surgery to take a biopsy of a tumor or to help prevent or treat symptoms. Our surgeons can perform surgery to remove any visible signs of cancer in the affected organs. Based on the type of urologic cancer, we offer the most innovative approaches to treat it, including robotic partial nephrectomy (removal of part of the kidney), penectomy (removal of part of the penis), robot-assisted laparoscopic surgery, and radical inguinal orchiectomy (to remove a cancerous testicle).
- Targeted therapy — Targeted therapy is the foundation of precision medicine. This type of cancer treatment targets proteins that control how cancer cells grow, divide, and spread. As researchers learn more about the DNA changes and proteins that drive cancer, they are better able to design promising treatments that target these proteins.
Resources for Urologic Cancers
We believe cancer care goes beyond the medical diagnosis and treatment. That’s why you can access many resources that may help answer questions and connect you to others.