A Look at Genitourinary Cancers
Published February 2019
The Interesting Link Among Common Cancers in Men
Prostate cancer is one of the most common types of cancer in men, but can you name the other types of genitourinary cancers?
The other common types of genitourinary cancer include bladder cancer, kidney cancer and testicular cancer. There are other less common types of cancer, including penile cancer, urethral cancer and adrenal cancer, which are also often managed by genitourinary specialists. Although the incidence of these cancers is higher in men, both sexes can be impacted by cancers in the genitourinary system, which plays roles in filtration of the blood; production, storage, and elimination of urine and certain reproductive functions. The prostate and testicles also play an important role in sexual and reproductive functions in men. Organs in this body system have a variety of roles and a complex relationship with one another.
“They’re treated together because of their intricate functional and anatomic relationships,” explains Gregory B. Auffenberg, MD, a Northwestern Medicine urologist at the Polsky Urologic Cancer Institute of the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University at Northwestern Memorial Hospital.
Types of Genitourinary Cancer
The prostate is a walnut-sized gland located below the bladder that plays an important role in both sexual and urinary function. Prostate cancer is common in American men, though a vast majority do not experience symptoms. One symptom, weak or frequent urination, is associated with a number of health issues not always indicative of prostate cancer. Most cases of prostate cancer are detected through routine screening with an exam or a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test, which is a blood test.
Most people have two kidneys, located above the waist near the backbone. Cancer can form in the tubes in the kidney, called renal cell cancer. These tubes are responsible for filtering your blood, creating waste and urine. It can also form in the part of the kidney that collects and drains urine, called urothelial cancer. These types of cancer may not have symptoms; many kidney cancers are found on imaging for other health concerns. Possible symptoms are blood in your urine or pain in the upper back or flank.
The testicles are two egg-shaped glands located inside the scrotum, or the loose skin directly below the penis. Testicular cancer can occur in one or both testicles. Symptoms may include a hard mass in the testicle or aching, pain or swelling in the area. This is generally found in men in their 20s and 30s, although it can occur at younger or older ages.
Cancer can occur in the lining of the bladder. Symptoms may include blood in your urine, urgency to urinate, or pain in the pelvis.
Diagnosis and Treatment
If you exhibit any of these symptoms, notify your primary provider. If a cancer is suspected, physicians will turn to imaging to help formulate a diagnosis. Biopsies are also necessary at times. Once a diagnosis is determined, your care team will map out the best course of action.
For any type of genitourinary cancer, it is often important to have multiple specialists involved in your care because of the complexities of modern treatment where often surgeons, medical oncologist, and radiation oncologists play a role in treatment. That is why facilities like the Polsky Urologic Cancer Institute, led by Edward M. Schaeffer, MD, PhD, are so important. The center offers innovative, multidisciplinary treatment of all genitourinary cancers, and it is the first of its kind in the Midwest. The center is part of the Northwestern Memorial Hospital Urology Program, which was ranked No. 26 in the U.S. and the highest-ranked in Illinois in the 2018 – 2019 America’s Best Hospitals report by U.S. News & World Report.
“The Polsky Urologic Cancer Institute is a phenomenal resource for both patients and physicians,” says Dr. Auffenberg. This combined team of renowned physicians and scientists also leverages their expertise to drive breakthroughs in treatment and accelerate new discoveries.
“This partnership allows for better support for our patients seeking care today and will also drive a great deal of research as we work to discover the treatments of tomorrow,” says Dr. Auffenberg.