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Transitional Cell Carcinoma: An Aggressive Cancer

Transitional cell carcinoma affects the transitional cells of the urinary system and accounts for an overwhelming majority of bladder cancer diagnoses. This cancer may spread rapidly, affecting other organs and becoming life-threatening in some cases. Because of this, it’s especially important to know more about this disease and its symptoms, as well as your treatment options at Regional Cancer Care Associates.

What Is Transitional Cell Carcinoma?

Transitional cell carcinoma originates in the very cells it is named for. Transitional epithelial cells are found in the lining of the ureter, the tube connecting the bladder to the kidneys. The ureter is responsible for transporting urine from the renal pelvis, or the middle of the kidneys, into the bladder. While transitional cell carcinoma originates along the ureter, high-grade cases allow it to spread (metastasize) into other organs and areas of the body. The prostate is the most commonly affected organ, as it is connected to the urinary system via ducts. Cancerous cells, however, may eventually spread to the breast, colon, or lungs.

While the disease’s cause is unknown, several risk factors may increase one’s likelihood of developing transitional cell carcinoma. These include obesity, smoking, exposure to job-site carcinogens, and consuming water with high arsenic levels. Symptoms may vary, and patients with early-stage or low-grade transitional cell carcinoma may show no initial symptoms. As the disease progresses, however, the following signs often appear:

  • Fatigue
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Blood in urine
  • New, persistent back pain
  • Frequent or painful urination

Contact your physician immediately if you notice any of these symptoms, as early detection is your best chance to overcome a cancer diagnosis.

Doctor analyzing x ray of lungs

Types of Transitional Cell Carcinoma

Also known as urothelial carcinoma, transitional cell carcinoma affects the renal pelvis and ureter. All bladder cancers have two subtypes of tumors that are classified based on how they grow. Papillary carcinomas are slim, finger-shaped tumors that originate in the bladder’s inner surface and grow deeper into the hollow portion of the bladder. Flat carcinomas have a similar appearance but do not grow into the bladder’s hollow center.

Because both types of tumors can spread beyond the renal pelvis and ureter areas, specific cases of transitional cell carcinoma are referred to in numerous ways. These include:

  • Invasive urothelial or transitional cell carcinoma
  • Papillary urothelial neoplasm of low-malignant potential (PUNLMP)
  • Non-invasive flat carcinoma or flat carcinoma in situ (CIS)
  • Primary transitional cell carcinoma of the prostate, colon, breast, or lung

Your oncologist will explain the details of your diagnosis to ensure you feel comfortable in your treatment plan and understand what to expect.

Available Treatments at RCCA

Your treatment team at Regional Cancer Care Associates will determine whether you require surgery, nonsurgical treatment options, or a combination of both. If you’re a candidate for bladder cancer surgery, nephroureterectomy is one of the most common procedures. During surgery, the affected kidney, ureter, and surrounding bladder tissue are removed to eliminate cancer cells. Segmental resection is also common, as it removes the portion of the ureter that contains cancer. If your cancer has spread outside the renal pelvis and ureter, your doctor will discuss additional surgical options specific to the site of your cancer.

Several nonsurgical treatment options are often used in conjunction with surgery or independently. These include chemotherapy, immunotherapy, targeted therapy, and more. You may also be eligible for clinical trials that test the efficacy of new treatment methods and medications for transitional cell carcinoma.

Learn More About Transitional Cell Carcinoma Today

If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with transitional cell carcinoma, Regional Cancer Care Associates can provide hope. Our oncologists use the latest technology and medical advances to help every patient achieve the most positive outcome possible. For more information, contact one of our 30 locations in Connecticut, New Jersey, or Maryland today.


View All Cancer Trials

When standard cancer treatments aren’t providing the results you want, clinical trials may offer hope. Our physicians use clinical trials to study new treatments, helping transform cancer care for the better. You can enroll in a clinical trial to try groundbreaking treatment plans at zero cost to you.

Regional Cancer Care Associates is one of fewer than 200 medical practices in the country selected to participate in the Oncology Care Model (OCM); a recent Medicare initiative aimed at improving care coordination and access to and quality of care for Medicare beneficiaries undergoing chemotherapy treatment.