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Urethral cancer in women

Ralph Madeb, MD
Dragan Golijanin, MD
Edward Messing, MD, FACS
Bridget F Koontz, MD
Section Editors
Jerome P Richie, MD, FACS
W Robert Lee, MD, MS, MEd
Deputy Editor
Michael E Ross, MD


Primary urethral cancer is a rare malignancy in women [1]. Unlike other tumors arising in the urinary tract, urethral cancer is more common in women than in men. Differences in anatomy and etiology lead to important differences in the clinical presentation, diagnosis, and treatment of urethral cancer in women compared to men.

The diagnosis and treatment of urethral cancer in women will be reviewed here. Urethral cancer in men is discussed separately. (See "Urethral cancer in men".)


The female urethra averages 3 to 4 cm in length. The proximal 30 percent is composed of transitional epithelium, while the distal 70 percent is stratified squamous epithelium.

The lymphatics of the distal one-third of the female urethra drain into the superficial or deep inguinal nodes, while the proximal two-thirds go into the pelvic lymph nodes (external and internal iliac, and obturator nodes).


Urethral cancers are rare malignancies in women, but occur four times more frequently in women compared to men [1]. Although some data suggest that squamous cell carcinomas (SCCs) are the predominant histologic type, this is not entirely clear.


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Literature review current through: Sep 2016. | This topic last updated: Aug 27, 2013.
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