What is Transitional Cell Carcinoma?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 23 October 2018
  • Copyright Protected:
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Transitional cell carcinoma, also known as renal urothelial carcinoma, is a malignancy which develops in the urinary tract. It can grow in the bladder, ureter, or kidneys, and often appears in the form of multiple tumors, rather than a single tumor at an isolated location. This cancer can be extremely aggressive, and is fatal if it is not treated. Treatment usually includes the input of a urologist, an oncologist, and other medical professionals such as radiologists.

This cancer arises in the transitional cells which line the urinary tract. It occurs when these cells start to multiply more quickly than they should, developing into a tumor. In addition to being malignant, the tumor can also obstruct the urinary tract, leading to issues such as urine retention and painful urination. The neck of the bladder is a common location for transitional cell carcinoma, and in people who have this cancer around the neck of the bladder, problems urinating are a very common symptom.

The people most at risk for transitional cell carcinoma are men over the age of 40. Symptoms can include difficulty urinating and abdominal pain. The cancer can be identified with the assistance of medical imaging and pathology studies which can pinpoint areas of abnormal cells. The carcinoma may appear in the form of a plaque, a nodule, or a raised growth somewhere in the urinary tract, and in women, it can sometimes appear in the ovaries as well.


One of the biggest risk factors for transitional cell carcinoma is smoking; smokers are much more likely to develop this cancer. Other risk factors include the long-term use of analgesics, and exposure to chemicals, usually as a result of occupational exposure. There can be genetic components as well, both inherited and the result of spontaneous mutations. In other cases, people with no obvious risks can develop this cancer.

Once the cancer has been identified and staged, discussions about treatment can begin. Surgical resection of the tumor is usually recommended to stop the cancer from spreading, although in some patients, surgery may be too risky, or not indicated. In addition to surgery, patients can be treated with immunotherapy and chemotherapy. Radiation therapy is generally not recommended for transitional cell carcinoma.

The prognosis for a patient with transitional cell carcinoma varies, depending on the patient's age and physical condition, the location and stage of the cancer, and the type of treatment the patient receives. Patients may want to consider discussing options for treatment with several doctors so that they can have a better idea of their options and the potential for recovery.



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