Most men know that they can be screened for prostate cancer, but there are other urologic cancers that men and women should be aware of. For example, did you know that testicular cancer is the most common cancer in men 20 to 35 years old? Or that bladder and kidney cancers are diagnosed more often in men than women? Here is some information on these lesser-known cancers.
What are the risk factors for urologic cancers?
Bladder cancer is diagnosed in men four times as often as women and is associated with smoking and occupational exposures, including those in the dye and chemical industries, hairdressers, truck drivers and machinists.
Kidney cancer is diagnosed in men twice as often as women. Risk factors include smoking, obesity and a family history of the cancer.
Risk factors for testicular cancer include having an undescended testicle during childhood and a family history of the disease.
Do these cancers cause any specific symptoms?
If you have blood in your urine, get it checked out. The majority of patients with bladder cancer will experience this and some may notice difficulty urinating. For kidney cancer, patients may notice this as well as pain along the side of their waist or a mass in their abdomen. However, kidney cancer is often diagnosed incidentally on X-rays with patients never reporting any symptoms. Patients who have a known genetic defect that raises their risk for kidney cancer should get regular screenings. Most men diagnosed with testicular cancer will notice an enlarging mass in a testicle that might cause discomfort. Routine testicular self-exams are recommended.
Will treatment for these cancers cause loss of urinary or sexual function?
The treatment for these cancers depends on its stage. Treatment can involve surgery, radiation, and/or chemotherapy. There can be significant treatment-related side effects as with all cancer treatments. Some bladder cancer treatment can be associated with altered urinary habits and sexual function. One of the biggest concerns for patients being treated for kidney cancer is a decrease in kidney function following partial or complete kidney removal. Infertility is a major concern for men following therapy for testicular cancer, so sperm banking is highly recommended.
What is the prognosis for these cancers?
The majority of these cancers are diagnosed before they've spread to other parts of the body. If these cancers have not spread, the prognosis is good, with appropriate treatment and follow-up. However, once bladder or kidney cancer has spread to other organs, survival is usually less than five years.
Dr. Paul Crispen is a urologic oncologist at the UK Markey Cancer Center.